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Phil Bradley Internet QandA: Facebook and personal data

Facebook data

Internet Q&A: Facebook and your personal data

Having seen all of the stories in the press recently about Facebook, how much do they really know about me?

It’s surprisingly simple. You need to be in your account of course, and go to the settings tab (under the down pointing half diamond) and under the general account settings click on “Download a copy of your Facebook data”. You can then download it and/or click on a link to see exactly what has been stored. It will include things like the adverts you have clicked on, your address, apps that you’ve added, conversations in Facebook chat, check-ins, IP addresses, phone numbers, posts by you, by others, to others, removed friends, status updates and so on. There is much, much more than that, and although people may be annoyed by it, we are the product, not the users and we all signed up to it.

Of course, you can delete your account and/or set up a fake profile if you have to be on Facebook, or you can simply shrug your shoulders and accept it as the price you pay for social media access.

SearchLite

Leading on from the whole privacy issue, I wanted to highlight some search engines that you might want to use which don’t track you. Obviously this helps keep your privacy, but it also means that it’s much less likely for an engine to be able to use its knowledge of you to filter information based on what it thinks you’re interested in. These engines don’t log your IP address, your visit isn’t logged and tracking cookies aren’t placed on your computer.

The obvious example is Duckduckgo and the advantage of this engine (just in privacy terms) means that you can still search Google, it’s just that Google doesn’t know who you are any more so you can have your cake and eat it.

Startpage by Ixquick also enhances its results by Google, and it goes into considerable detail to explain exactly how privacy works – if you’re interested in the subject this is a really good place to visit in order to get an overview.

Gibiru is an engine that you may not have discovered before. It goes into great detail about privacy settings, mainly from the viewpoint of Americans who are supposed to regard it “as the preferred search engine for patriots”. It’s also powered by a Google custom search engine as well.

Search Encrypt redirects your searches to their privacy enhanced search engine, and your encrypted search terms are deleted after 15 minutes. I didn’t particularly like this engine, since it generally gave me fewer results than other engines, although once or twice it did surprise me with what it found.

 

Swisscows is based in Switzerland unsurprisingly. As with other engines, it doesn’t build any tracking profiles or uniquely identify users. However, this is a semantic search engine which uses artificial intelligence to work out exactly what is being asked, rather than just working with the random terms entered.

Qwant doesn’t keep search histories, put cookies on your browser and so on. It’s quite an exciting search engine which provides access to trending topics, news stories, social media content and so on.

Those are a few that caught my eye, but I’d also suggest that you take a look at Oscobo, SearX, Peekier and Metager.

Site of the month

Some of you will hopefully remember the series of posters that I did for the Save Libraries campaign by reusing propaganda posters from both world wars. When I was doing that I realised just how interesting posters could be, so I was really pleased to discover that the University of Texas has produced a collection of about 10,000 posters spanning the entire history of film. You can read about it at the Ransom Centre blog at https://bit.ly/2BkbKnw and search the collection here.


Published:  24 May 2018

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