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Control Center: How To Check Which Apps Have Your Data (And How To Cut Them Off)

In the wake of Cambridge Analytica, cries rang out to #deleteFacebook. Here are some less drastic steps to protect your data across a range of apps.
by Quinton O’Reilly | Apr 6 2018

At this time it’s hard not to feel paranoid about how your data is being used. The news surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica — not to mention the recent reveal that data on most of its two billion plus accounts could have been accessed improperly — is cause for alarm.

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Considering how easy it’s been to just grant access to apps over the years with just a single click, it’s worth thinking about what services have access to your data.

Regulations like GDPR, which will come into effect in late May, will give those in the EU greater control over their data, but for now, there are some steps you can take to regain some control over where your data goes.

Checking which apps have access

In this case, we’ll deal with the four most common accounts out there: Facebook, Google, Instagram and Twitter. While we’ll detail how to find said settings on mobile, we recommend that you do it through desktop as it will be easier to find the settings you’re looking for.

The other issue is that while you remove access to accounts, that doesn’t mean the apps themselves will delete your data. For that, you will have to get in touch with them directly and ask them to remove it.

This only scratches the surface of what you can do, but if you want to take further action, we’ve listed resources at the end.

Facebook

Go into settings (click the downward arrow located at the top-right hand corner or type facebook.com/settings) and look for the apps section. Clicking on it will present you with all the apps you’ve authorised.

You can remove them outright or if you want to control access more, click on edit settings (left of the tick-box beside each app) and you will see each permission granted. Untick any data you don’t want the app accessing.

An important thing to note is that you’re cutting off access, not removing data. If you want to go that step further, you will have to open the app or service and use its report/contact feature. Keep your user ID handy — it’s found at the bottom of the edit settings page — as you may need it when dealing with the developers.

If you want, you can remove them in bulk by ticking them and then clicking the remove button.

Twitter

Clicking on your profile pic on the top-right hand corner, you will find Settings and Privacy. Here you will find the apps option which will show you the apps accessing your account and what permissions they’ve access to.

Google

Go to Google’s My Account (https://myaccount.google.com) and underneath Sign-in and Security will be an option called Apps with account access. Click on that and then manage apps will show you a list of all third-party apps connected to your account.

Clicking on one will expand and show you the permissions granted and give you the option to remove access.

Instagram

Instagram is a little strange in that the only way you can remove apps is to visit the desktop site. If you go to your profile and click settings (the cog beside Edit Profile), you will see an option called Authorized Apps.

Clicking on that will give you a list of all the apps that have authorised and the permissions they’re granted. Unlike Facebook, you can’t control what permissions they do and don’t have access to.

Want to go a step further?

As mentioned earlier, the above only scratches the surface. There are many more steps you can take and numerous guides to help you do that

– You can download your data from Google, Twitter and Facebook to see who has what on you. How long it will take will depend on the amount of data you have but you will be notified when it’s ready.

Wired has a comprehensive take on downloading your Facebook data and what you can do with it.

– If you’re unsure about messaging, Teen Vogue has a good piece on how to keep your messages secure.

– Expanding on a Twitter thread that went viral, data consultant and web developer Dylan Curran goes into detail as to what data Facebook and Google has on you. Google also has a privacy check-up feature which lets you add or revoke permissions.

– Initiatives like Me and My Shadow, which was created by the non-profit organisation Tactical Technology Collective, will give you practical steps to help improve your privacy on Facebook and other apps as well as recommending alternative apps to use if you want to go a step further.

– It also has a Data Detox section which gives clear, actionable steps you can take over the space of eight days.

– privacyflag.eu offers a comprehensive guide to tools and services that will help you preserve your security and privacy online.

– Field Guide, a subsection of Gizmodo which focuses on tech tips and advice, has a guide on how smartphones and their apps can track you and how to take back control.

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