Deletion, deactivation, and everything in between.
With news that data mining company Cambridge Analytica gained
access to the data of 50 million Facebook users by questionable means, you may be thinking twice about how useful or beneficial it is to still have all your data floating around on it. Maybe you’re just through with it for other reasons. If so, here’s how to quit the service. Also, if you’re a little skittish, there are other options, which include deactivating rather than disabling your account. We’ll go over those as well.
If you’re absolutely sure you don’t want anything to do with Facebook ever again and you just want the instructions for deleting your account, we won’t judge you for that.
Head to this page on the web, click Delete my account, and you’re done. Every trace of your Facebook existence will be wiped out within 90 days.
If you’d like to preserve your Facebook activities for some future reminiscing—maybe you are quite attached to your wall witticisms, or you’ve got a ton of photos you want back—head to Facebook Settings on the web and follow the Download a copy of your Facebook data link under the General heading.
You’ll get an email when your archive is ready, and everything you’ve ever done on Facebook can be downloaded in straightforward HTML format.
If you are not 100 percent sure you want to break it off with Facebook, you can indefinitely disable your account instead. Go to Facebook Settings, click Security, then choose Edit next to Deactivate your account, and finally click the Deactivate your account button.
This pretty much hides you from the world on Facebook, but you can jump back in at any time, so it’s not as permanent as deleting your account. Log back in again, and everything will be restored just as you left it.
If you’re not happy with what you’re getting from Facebook, there are lots of ways to tweak the experience without pulling the plug completely. In a moment we’ll cover how to turn your account into a super-private, locked-down one, but first there are steps you can take to control the content you see.
Next to every item on your News Feed you’ll see a drop-down menu: Click on this to hide the post (and others like it) from your feed in future.
Choose News Feed Preferences from the drop-down menu on the Facebook toolbar on the web and you get a whole host of extra options too. You can prioritize the people you see in the News Feed, unfollow people you’re bored of, and find more interesting Pages you might want to subscribe to.
Custom friends lists are great for cutting down on News Feed clutter. Click Friends Lists on the left of the News Feed and you can create a subgroup from your contacts. Each list will have its own custom URL that will work as an alternative to the main News Feed.
Facebook also offers a bunch of options for making your profile a much more private affair (if you ever want to see how your profile looks to someone else, click the dotted button on your profile’s cover photo and choose View As).
Every time you post something on Facebook, whether it’s a photo or a status update, from mobile or the web, you’ll see an audience selector drop-down menu—you can add or remove any of your contacts to the "audience" for the post, and your choices are remembered for next time.
Any of your friends lists (see above) can be chosen too, so if you wanted, only a small group of your buddies would ever see anything you did on Facebook… though of course there’s nothing to stop other people uploading embarrassing pictures of you.
Head to the Privacy section of Facebook Settings and you can stop people from tagging you on Facebook, hide your profile page from search engines on the web, and more. You can also make it impossible for potential contacts to look you up based on your phone number or email address, which should be enough to keep those old school friends you never want to see again at bay.
If your beef with Facebook is intrusive advertising and tracking then there are ways to limit this as well, though you do give up some level of privacy by signing up for the site in the first place.
From Facebook Settings click Ads and you can stop your Facebook ad preferences following you around the web, stop Facebook targeting ads at you based on some aspects of your online activity, and even tweak the topics Facebook thinks you’re interested in (the ones that it uses to serve up ads).
For even more protection against online tracking, head to the Digital Alliance website and opt out as many tracking programs as you like. There are also browser extensions that can help protect your privacy, both on Facebook and off: check out The Privacy Badger or Adblock Plus for Chrome and Firefox, for example (just please remember to add Popular Mechanics to the whitelist along the way).
This post was originally published on 3/23/2017.
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