5 things to know about how Facebook grabs and uses your data

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File – This Jan. 17, 2017, file photo shows a Facebook logo being displayed in a start-up companies gathering at Paris’ Station F, in Paris. A former employee of a Trump-affiliated data-mining firm says it used algorithms that “took fake news to the next level” using data inappropriately obtained from Facebook. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – With Facebook making headlines for how it handles individual data about its users, it’s important to understand just how much access the multibillion-dollar company has to your personal information.

Here’s a quick guide to what Facebook knows about you and how you can limit that information from being used.

Facebook collects lots of information about you.
By now, you know this. But until the last few weeks, there’s a good chance you weren’t thinking about it. On its data policy page, Facebook explains it collects information about things you based on information you provide, such as location check-ins or dates associated with pictures you add to your page. The company also collects similar information about others who share photos of you or send messages to you. It also collects information about payments you make – like when you spend money on a game or make a donation – as well as the type of device you’re using.

The company uses this information in lots of ways.
Start with advertising. Facebook can take any of the information it collects from you and use it to offer ads that might interest you. For example, if you love wearing Air Jordans and you make that clear on your Facebook account, you might start seeing ads for companies advertising the newest pair of sneakers. The company says it also uses a lot of the information to improve your overall experience on Facebook.

Even your apps have a lot of access to your Facebook account.
If you’ve ever taken the “which West Wing character am I?” quiz or any similar survey, there’s a good chance you’ve given some third-party access to your Facebook account. Chances are you just wanted to know which character you are similar to and quickly approved the app to have all of that access. If you want see just how many apps are connected your Facebook account, go the top right corner of your page (on a desktop) and click the down-facing arrow located to the right of the question mark. Then click “settings” and you’ll be brought to that says “General Account Settings.” On the left side of the screen, click “apps.” That will bring you to a list of the apps that have access to your account. On a mobile device, open the Facebook app, tap the bottom right corner of the screen and scroll down to “settings.” Tap “account settings” and scroll down and tap “apps.”

You can download all of the information Facebook has on you.
Warning: if you’ve active on Facebook for a long time, some of the things you download might surprise you. If you want see everything the company has, you can follow a similar process to the one listed above for accessing the apps connected to your account. Go the top right corner of your page (on a desktop) and click the down facing arrow located to the right of the question mark. Then click “settings” and you’ll be brought to that says “General Account Settings.” The click “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”

You can deactivate your Facebook account.
This is a trend that seems to be gaining traction following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved a consulting firm gaining access to tens of millions of Facebook profiles. (You can read everything about that issue here.) If you’ve decided you no longer want to use Facebook, you can deactivate your account by clicking here. (Note: Facebook says it can take up to 90 days to completely erase your information, and even then, messages you may have sent to others will remain active.)

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