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How to delete your Facebook account or just be more savvy about your data

As questions are asked about Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data, here’s how users can be more confident about their data privacy on the site.

As British firm Cambridge Analytica is accused of misusing data gleaned from Facebook users, people are questioning how they will continue to use the social media site.

Here’s how to find out just what sort of information you share via apps on Facebook and ultimately how to delete your account.

What sort of data does Facebook have on its users and what does it share?

Every interaction on Facebook generates data. Users volunteer some information in their profile like their hometown and birthday. Other data could be about interests gleaned from publicly liking content – be that dogs and walking or sci-fi films and beauty bloggers.

Facebook also knows where you log on to its site from, the device you use, and which ads you click on.

Apps which work on the site, like mini games and personality quizzes, request a user’s permission to take this information – a person’s data. There are rules about what third parties can do with it.

Facebook says data collected via a quiz app called ThisIsYourDigitalLife, billed as a personality predictor, was passed to Cambridge Analytica in violation of its terms.

Where can I find details about what apps I’ve given access to?

Visit www.facebook.com/settings or, on the desktop site, settings is located on the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the blue header bar.

Click on the apps tab on the left-hand side of the screen to see all the apps you’ve okayed.

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The general settings tab on Facebook (PA)

Users can see what info is shared with any app, and there are options to delete, limit the information each app can access and remove info collected by the app.

Deleting an app may still allow the developer to retain some of a user’s personal information.

How do my friends impact on apps?

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Four people using smartphones outside

In “Apps Others Use”, Facebook sets out how apps which other people use can read your data. This feature revolves around the social part of Facebook – it’s the tech which means you might be flagged as a fellow reader of a certain book, a brand devotee, or someone who also plays a game.

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Apps Others Use settings page on Facebook (PA)

Click edit and 13 categories are listed, including bio, timeline posts and online status. Any combination can be toggled on and off.

What is Facebook Platform?

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Platform settings page on Facebook (PA)

If you want to go a step further you can turn off Platform – this is the system which among other things allows you to comment on or log into other websites using your Facebook details.

By turning it off, you lose some functionality but it means your information is not automatically shared as you surf the web.

How to see your Facebook data

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The message users receive when they download their information

In the general section of the settings is an option “download a copy of your Facebook data”. Click on it and Facebook will email you when it’s ready to download.

Facebook says most of this data is already available in your account and activity log, but it also includes information on ads you have clicked on and the IP addresses you’ve used.

It will also reveal email addresses previously associated with your account, topics of ads which may be targeted to you and the metadata contained in photos uploaded to Facebook.

How do I deactivate or delete my account?

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Screenshot from the Facebook advice centre about how to deactivate and delete your account

Facebook talks people through both deactivating and deleting their account in Settings > General > Manage Your Account.

Deactivating allows you to log back in in the future and have your Facebook profile completely restored. While deactive, people won’t be able to search for you or see your page, but the info is retained.

To permanently delete your Facebook account, visit www.facebook.com/help/delete_account to start the process. It may take up to 90 days to delete all the things you’ve posted, says Facebook.

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