All about data privacy - are you safe?

Lady looking at her tablet

With anxieties about data privacy becoming increasingly prevalent, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between hard facts and scare-mongering.

We’ve been working with Facebook to tackle Mumsnet users’ most pressing concerns about the social media platform – from who has access to your data, to how Facebook handles your deleted posts.

Our users asked, and Facebook have answered. Read on to learn how you can maintain privacy while safely using the platform.

What do you want to know?

Who has access to your data?

Couple looking at a screen

How many people see and process my data that don't need to?

We know how important privacy is. Facebook follows strict rules whenever dealing with data. We know how important privacy is. So Facebook follows strict rules when dealing with data. This way, everyone can feel safe whenever they upload and share personal information. When we do share data – for example, to advertisers who use our analytics service – that data is always 100% anonymous and normally collated into larger data sets.

These provide statistics and insights that help businesses understand how much people like their content – be it posts, listing, or pages. Of course, you always get to choose who can see your shared photos and posts – whether that's just friends, friends of friends, or a custom-made list. The same goes for choosing which apps you share your information with.

How do I find out what data you have about me and who could access it?

That’s easy. Just head over to Access Your Information. It’s a simple tool for you to see everything Facebook knows about you all in one place. This could be photos, status updates, comments, and messages – anything that's stored on your profile. It also lets you edit and delete information as you please, and there's an option to download it, too. This downloads a secure copy of all the information you've ever shared with Facebook.

What other platforms are my details, posts and photos shared with?

It totally depends on how you use Facebook and how public or private you've chosen to make your profile and your posts. For example, if you've used Facebook to log into apps or websites such as Spotify, Netflix or Airbnb, they will have asked you for permission to access information from your Facebook profile. This could be your name, age or other personal details you have made public.
Ultimately you control what information is available for others to see on Facebook.

When you set up your account, your profile is automatically only visible to your friends on Facebook, so unless you choose otherwise, this remains the case. You can review and control the information you have shared by clicking the 'Review the info you provide' button before you link to any new apps, and you can review, edit and remove apps you no longer want to connect with at any time in the Settings, Apps and Websites section of your account. See the apps help section for more information.

Could you please define 'third party access'? Who is this and why is it necessary?

You can review and control the information you provide to third parties by clicking the “Review the info you provide” button before you sign up to an app. 'Third-party access' refers to apps and websites you've used Facebook to log into. Again, these could be services such as Spotify, Netflix or Airbnb. When you log in, these apps or websites will ask you for permission to access information from your Facebook profile. This could be your name, age or other personal details you have made public. They use this information to help you find friends in the app, personalise the content so it’s more interesting to you, make it easier to share things via Facebook and to make creating an account easier so you can use the app right away. You can review and control the information you provide to third parties by clicking the 'Review the info you provide' button before you sign up to an app. You can also review, edit and remove apps you no longer want to connect within the Settings, Apps and Websites. And do see the apps help section for more information.

How to keep your data private

Hands looking at a phone

Can you provide an up-to-date and easy-to-understand guide showing users exactly how to ensure their settings are as they wish them to be?

Check out our fully up-to-date Privacy Basics guide that helps people better understand the range of privacy settings they have in their control. Step-by-step, it takes you through how Facebook works, and how you can completely control your level of privacy. You can also visit Privacy Shortcuts available under the settings tab with the '?' icon, or choose Privacy Check-up in the same tab for a quick and easy way to check and set controls. We don't have one button that defaults to a certain setting as everyone is different when it comes to privacy. Our aim instead is to give you the tools to let you decide how much privacy you want – just like in real life.

Is it possible to ensure that posts that I have deleted are no longer visible online?

On Facebook, when you delete something, it's deleted permanently. We remove it from the platform straight away so no one else can see it, then delete it from our backup servers within 90 days.

Do you analyse the encrypted messages in WhatsApp or is it really genuinely private messaging?

We take your privacy as seriously as you do, which is why messages sent on WhatsApp are encrypted end-to-end, meaning that no one can read them other than the sender and the recipient — not even us. So, private genuinely means private. Recently, we also announced that we’re expanding this kind of encryption across all of our messaging platforms, making your conversations even more private.

What is the privacy policy around content in private groups? Are photos or comments posted in these groups saved and used too?

Closed groups are an excellent place to share with friends. Here, the photos or comments you post remain within the group, so only members can see what has been shared. If someone decides to delete a photo, it is immediately removed. Copies on our servers are also cleared within 90 days. You can also choose to create a secret group, which offers the same level of privacy as closed groups. The difference is that no one can search for secret groups or request to join them. The only way to get in is to be invited by someone you know who is already a part of the group. Everything shared in a secret group is visible only to its members.

How Facebook collects your data

teenage boy on swing on a phone

Does Facebook collect the same data from all users – even those under 18?

The data we do use helps us improve the advertisements you see on Facebook. This data is always 100% anonymous and never personally identifies you. It’s used to show you more relevant ads based on things such as your age, gender, and interests. We also show you ads based on things you click on or like, such as posts or pages. Allowing companies to advertise on our platform is how we keep Facebook free for all, and we try to make sure any ads you see are as valuable to you as possible.

Visit your.fb.com to find out more about social media and mental health, safe use of the internet, content governance, and privacy.