CONSUMER ALERT: Protect Your Personal Information on Social Media

Today, Attorney General Karl A. Racine filed a lawsuit against Facebook for failing to protect users’ personal information and allowing companies to harvest information without users’ consent. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook’s lax oversight allowed a “personality quiz” app to gain access to information on over 80 million users, including over 340,000 District residents. That information was then sold to Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm linked to the 2016 Trump campaign, which used it for political purposes. It took Facebook more than two years to disclose this to consumers.

While AG Racine is taking legal action to hold Facebook accountable, he is also urging District consumers to take the following steps when using social media platforms like Facebook:

  • Check your privacy settings on Facebook and other social media platforms. You can adjust your privacy settings to control who can see and access your personal information. For a simple way to view and adjust your Facebook privacy settings, click on the question mark symbol in the top right corner of any Facebook page and select Privacy Checkup. If you are using the Facebook app on a mobile device, navigate to Settings, then Privacy Shortcuts, then Privacy Checkup. You can adjust all of your Facebook settings, including privacy settings and Apps settings, by going to Settings and selecting the category of settings you would like to adjust from the left column.
     
  • Review the data Facebook or other social media accounts maintain for you. Facebook currently allows users to download and review data maintained on you. You should obtain and review this information. To review all of your Facebook activity, log into Facebook, navigate to Settings, click Your Facebook Information, and click Activity Log. From there, you can review this information and delete posts or other activity you no longer wish to be available. To download the data Facebook has about you, navigate to Settings, click Your Facebook Information, then click Download your information.
     
  • Be wary of games, applications, quizzes or questionnaires. Online games, quizzes and other programs may appear to be innocent but are often only trying to obtain access to your personal information and the personal information of your friends and family. Only download games, applications or other programs whose privacy policies respect your wishes.
     
  • Don’t include personal information on your social media accounts. You should remove private information like your home address, phone number, and email address from your Facebook profile and other accounts where possible.
     
  • Only accept friend or follower requests from people you know. You should be skeptical of requests from people you do not know.
     
  • Contact the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). If you believe personal information from your social media account has been stolen or used improperly. You can contact us by calling OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection through the OAG Consumer Hotline at (202) 442-9828, by sending an e-mail to consumer.protection@dc.gov , or online using OAG’s Consumer Complaint Form .

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) works to protect and defend District residents, enforce District laws, and provide legal advice to D.C. government agencies. Learn more about AG Racine’s lawsuit against Facebook here: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2018-12/Facebook-Complaint.pdf