As Facebook takes heat for a major data leak that was allegedly used to manipulate U.S. voters, now’s probably a great time to tweak your account’s privacy settings -- or even take the bold step of permanently deleting your profile.

In the past, some of the most nefarious data harvesting from Facebook users has been executed via third-party Facebook-linked apps such as games, online personality tests or services like photo-sharing sites that require you to sign in using your Facebook account.

While apps generally can only collect information from Facebook users who sign up for them, they are still able to gather a significant amount of data from your account, such as your friend list, wall posts, likes and self-declared religious and political views. Luckily, Facebook makes it relatively easy to control exactly what type of data such apps have access to.

To do so:

  • Login to Facebook on your web browser.
  • Click the ‘Settings’ tab in the dropdown menu near the top right of your screen.
  • Click the ‘Apps’ tab on the left to see a list of applications currently linked to your Facebook account.
  • Clicking on each app will show you exactly what information you are currently sharing with it. You can then edit the information you share with any given app by clicking the blue and white checkmark icons next to each ‘INFO YOU PROVIDE TO THIS APP’ category.
  • Taking these steps, however, does guarantee that an app won’t retain your past data. To ensure this, you will need to contact the app’s developer directly, which is possible by opening an app and then clicking the ‘Report/Contact’ link in the bottom right corner of your screen. You will need to have your app-specific user ID number handy, which can be found by clicking on an app on your ‘App Settings’ page and then scrolling to the bottom of the popup screen.
  • If there are any apps listed that you don’t recognize or no longer use, simply click the ‘X’ that pops up when you hover your mouse over its icon in order to deactivate it.
  • To add an additional level of security to your Facebook data, scroll down on the ‘App Settings’ page until you see the ‘Apps Others Use’ box. Click the ‘Edit’ button to see what information can be taken from your account when your Facebook friends use apps. If you don’t want your friends to inadvertently share things like your birthday, current city and timeline posts with the apps they use, uncheck all appropriate boxes.

Facebook apps

If you haven’t done so already, to further enhance your account’s security you should also probably limit the audience of your posts and personal information to just your friends.

To do this:

  • Login to Facebook on your web browser.
  • Click the ‘Settings’ tab in the dropdown menu near the top right of your screen.
  • Using the ‘Privacy’ tab on the left, toggle the various settings so only ‘Friends’ can see your posts and personal information. Also be sure to ‘Limit Past Posts’ so only friends can see them too.
  • Using the ‘Timeline and Tagging’ tab on the left, toggle the various settings so only ‘Friends’ can see your timeline and posts you’re tagged in.

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If all of these steps are still leaving you feeling insecure, you can always make the bold move of permanently deleting your Facebook account.

But before you do that, you will probably want to download a copy of all of your Facebook data.                                                                                                                                               

To do this:

  • Login to Facebook on your web browser.
  • Click the ‘Settings’ tab in the dropdown menu near the top right of your screen.
  • In the ‘General’ settings menu, click the hyperlink where it says ‘Download a copy of your Facebook data.’
  • Click the green button that says ‘Start My Archive.’
  • Doing this will let you download all of your posts, photos and videos as well as your ‘Activity Log,’ which essentially is a complete overview of everything you’ve ever done on Facebook,  including your likes, comments, searches, messages, friend list, ads you’ve clicked on and IP addresses you’ve connected to Facebook from. Really, the amount of data contained in this document is dizzying -- and it will give you a very good idea of everything Facebook has collected on you over the years.


Once you’ve downloaded a copy of your Facebook data, you’ll be ready to permanently delete your account.

To do so:

  • Login to Facebook on your web browser.
  • Access the ‘How do I permanently delete my account?’ page in Facebook’s Help Centre.
  • Click the hyperlink that says ‘let us know.’
  • Clicking that link will take you to the ‘Delete My Account’ screen.
  • Once you press the ‘Delete My Account’ button, you’ll have to re-enter your password and decipher a garbled code to prove that you’re not a robot.
  • Once you’ve taken this step, your Facebook account should no longer be visible, though it can take up to 90 days for the company to scrub all of your posts and data from its servers.


Facebook makes it much easier to temporarily deactivate your account through the ‘Manage Account’ tab on your ‘General’ settings page, but doing this will not remove your personal data from the social media site. This might be a good first step, though, if you want to see if you can live a Facebook-free life.

You can also toggle your Facebook privacy settings from your smartphone’s Facebook app, though it is much easier to take these steps from your computer.

With files from The Associated Press