CONSUMER ALERT: Attorney General Racine Urges Consumers to Protect Themselves on Facebook and Other Social Media

OAG Says All Residents Should Take Preventive Action in Wake of Facebook Data Misuse

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Karl A. Racine is urging all District residents to take action to protect their privacy online in the wake of recent reports that the private information of as many as 87 million Facebook users was misused.

“Recent disclosures about how much information Facebook collects from its users and how that information is handled raise serious questions about Facebook’s policies, and my counterparts and I have demanded answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg,” said Attorney General Racine. “In the meantime, District residents need to take extra steps to protect themselves.”

Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm, was able to obtain and use information Facebook gathers about its users without those users’ knowledge. At the time, Facebook’s policies allowed third-party software developers to access the personal data of “friends” of users who downloaded apps on the platform, without the consent of those “friends.” News reports suggest that the personal information of all Facebook users was, at one time, vulnerable to this type of harvesting and misuse by third parties.

Attorney General Racine suggests all District consumers take the following steps when using social media platforms like Facebook:

  1. 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.
  2. Review the data Facebook or other social media accounts maintain for you. Facebook currently allows users to download and review data maintained on you, as well as a log of your activity on the site. You should obtain and review this information and, where appropriate, delete posts or other activity you no longer wish to be available.  To download a copy of you Facebook data, use a web browser to log into Facebook, navigate to Settings, click Download a copy of your Facebook data (below your General Account Settings), and click Start My Archive.
  3. 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 from sources you trust and whose privacy policies respect your wishes.
  4. 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.
  5. Only accept friend or follower requests from people you know. You should be skeptical of requests from people you do not know.
  6. Contact the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) if you believe 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.

Attorney General Racine has joined a bipartisan coalition of 37 state and territorial attorneys general in demanding answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the company’s business practices and its commitment to privacy protections.