Facebook’s latest data scandal is just the beginning – and not even the worst of it, warn privacy experts the independent ease use data recovery

The scandal over the collection of data by cambridge analytica is only one small part of a huge industry that uses facebook and other services to manipulate people’s behaviour, experts have warned.

Many of those companies, like cambridge analytica, have avoided drawing attention to the work they do, and usually describe their work in the most general of terms. Such firms tend to describe themselves as data, technology and marketing firms, for instance.

But the reach those companies have is often vast. They collect trillions of pieces of information on billions of users across the world, claiming to offer insights into the people in its databases, who are not even aware of the fact they are being studied.Being used the data is incredibly detailed, with companies collecting thousands of different pieces of information about each of the people they study.

If you haven’t done this already, do it now. In settings, hit the privacy tab. From here, you can control who gets to see your future posts and friends list. Choose from public, friends, only me and custom in the dropdown menu.

Annoyingly, changing this has no effect on who’s able to see your past facebook posts. Instead, on the privacy page, you have to click on limit past posts, then select limit old posts and finally hit confirm on the pop-up.

You can stop completely random people from adding you by selecting friends of friends from the dropdown menu in the who can send you friend requests?Your timeline section of the privacy page. It’s also worth limiting who can find your facebook profile with your number and email address.

You can limit who gets to post things on your timeline and who gets to see posts on your timeline too. In settings, go to timeline and tagging and edit the sections you want to lock down.

When you block someone, they won’t be able to see things you post on your timeline, tag you, invite you to events or groups, start conversations with you or add you as a friend. To do it, go to settings and blocking. Annoyingly, you have to block people on messenger separately.

You can also add friends to your restricted list here, which means they’ll still be friends with you but will only be able to see your public posts and things you share on a mutual friend’s timeline.Being used

One of facebook’s handiest privacy features is the ability to review posts you’re tagged in before they appear on your timeline. They’ll still be visible on the news feed while they’re fresh, but won’t be tied to your profile forever. In timeline and tagging, enable timeline review controls.

You can view a list of all of the apps you’ve connected to your facebook account by going to settings and apps. The list might be longer than you expected it to be. It’s worth tidying this up to ensure things you no longer use lose access to your personal information.

You can view a list of everything facebook thinks you’re into and tinker with your ad preferences by going to settings and adverts.Able your A lot more information is displayed on the desktop site than the app, so we’d recommend doing this on a computer.

Facebook lets you download all of the data it has on you, including the posts you’ve shared, your messages and photos, ads you’ve clicked on and even the IP addresses that are logged when you log in or out of the site. It’s a hell of a lot of information, which you should download to ensure you never over-share on the social network again.

The use of that information underlies many modern industries, and reaches into the most central parts of people’s lives. The cambridge analytica controversy has arisen in large part because it was being used by the brexit and trump campaigns – but as well as politics, the collection and use of data stretches deep into the most personal parts of our lives, and even attempts to predict whether people might come to commit a crime.Your timeline

“I think this scandal is the tip of the iceberg,” said javier ruiz diaz, policy director at open rights group. “it also shows that there is a continuum between what you would call normal marketing and this completely unethical manipulation.”

The difficulty of picking between legitimate uses of data and unethical ones – as well as the broad use of such firms – makes legislating against it very difficult.

Downing street released a statement calling the breach “very concerning” on monday, but further disclosures in a channel 4 news investigation have shown that the company discussed propaganda, disinformation and extortion tactics with prospective clients.Your timeline

Liam byrne, labour’s shadow minister for digital, called the combination of big data companies and foreign powers an “unholy alliance” which demanded legislation to stop any “interfering in our democracy”.

The use of data underpins the very idea of free services, which are paid for by collecting data about their users and then allowing advertisers to target them. But that same advertising data is being used to change the results of elections and other political events – something that facebook and other companies have highlighted when courting political parties.

“we have become accustomed to throwing away our data with scant regard to the insight companies have about our lives,” said raj samani, mcafee fellow and chief scientist.Your timeline “often we hear and worry about cybercriminals stealing from our devices, but in the same vein we accept ‘free’ services and pay by giving away every insight into our lives and those of our families.”

“if you’re collecting data on people and you’re profiling them, that gives you more insight that you can use to know how to segment the population, to give them messaging about issues that they care about, and language and imagery that they’re likely to engage with,” said mr taylor, in a secretly filmed meeting with channel 4 news, broadcast on monday.

But that same description could apply to facebook itself, as well as a whole host of other data broker companies that do similar work to cambridge analytica.Your timeline

“we see data exploitation happening in the entire advertising ecosystem – the certainly unethical, and perhaps unlawful harvesting of data,” said frederike kaltheuner, who leads privacy international’s data programme.

“so if you’re worried about this harvesting of facebook data, you should also be worried about the ways in which third parties are tracking and profiling you. These companies, that you aren’t even aware of, hold vast amounts of very personal, very intimate information about you.”

It is almost impossible to know how effective the work of cambridge analytica was in the brexit, trump or other campaigns it has been attached to, since it cannot be measured.Cambridge analytica but other similar companies point to spectacular successes – many of them reaching to the most high-profile crimes and high-risk situations.

Palantir, for instance, describes itself as a firm that makes products that “transform the way organisations use their data”. But the company, backed by trump ally peter thiel, is reported to have clients including many of the most secretive and powerful parts of the US government: a document leaked in 2015 said it was being used by the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, the marine corps and the air force.

Though the company says very little about what it does, it is thought to be something like the crime prediction powers fictionalised in minority report.Able your its software can run through vast amounts of data and try to pick out the people who might be involved in crime – it is said to have helped identify the scams run by bernie madoff, and has been deployed in iraq to predict where roadside bombs might be detonated.

Other companies are involved in the collection and sale of more personal, less specific data. The firm equifax, for instance, came to the fore when it was revealed last year that it had been hacked; many of the people involved were told that some of their most private information might have been disclosed, despite not even knowing that they had been part of the company’s database.

There have been substantial concerns about the lack of transparency around data brokers since at least 1970, when the US passed the fair credit reporting act.Cambridge analytica but that law only covers companies that buy and sell data for credit, employment and other similar purposes, and left exempt companies that use that data for marketing or political campaigns.

Since then, there have been relatively few regulations on both data brokers and the social networks who are customers of each other. Much of the data collected by US authorities – such as crime and even some health records – are readily available to data providers.

The EU and the UK, for instance, are both working on new data protection law this year. But such regulations require input from the US, and campaigners said that little is likely to be done without global pressure.Cambridge analytica

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