With attacks on our privacy coming from every direction, it’s tough to know where to start. I’d say the best place to begin is Facebook. While the best way to protect your privacy is to not have an account, it’s not always realistic. There’s a way to use Facebook that’s a lot closer to not having an account than to logging on using public Wi-Fi with Internet Explorer. Let’s look at ways to protect your privacy while using the most interesting, if maybe also the most depressing, social network.
One thing is certain: don’t use the official Facebook app or install Facebook Messenger. I’ve never installed Facebook Messenger. I’ve installed the official Facebook app in the past, but have since learned better. There are many alternative Facebook apps, most of which allow advanced, privacy-focused features that include ad blocking. They also have user-interface enhancements including the ability show the most recent posts first instead of whatever Facebook thinks you should see first.
Friendly for Facebook
The best alternative Facebook app that I’ve found is Friendly for Facebook. It ticks all the boxes including the ability to send and receive Facebook messages without needing to install the Facebook Messenger app, the ability to block ads, the ability to hide posts by keyword and the option to display Facebook in a dark mode.
Blocking Facebook ads is table stakes. Any Facebook app should offer the ability to block ads and the couple of bucks to unlock this feature is well worth it.
Facebook Messenger is a disaster of a user experience and a privacy nightmare. I’ve never installed it out of principal, and it’s great that Friendly lets me send and receive Facebook messages to and from the rubes who use it so that I don’t have to install the Facebook Messenger app.
Blocking posts by keyword is the ultimate Facebook customization experience. My current block list includes any post that has the words cats, chiefs, auction or sponsor. My feed went from depressing and uninteresting to useful overnight.
Night mode is also a great option. White text on a black background is a much better experience. You should try it. The official Facebook app doesn’t allow it, but Friendly does. Your mileage may vary.
Facebook has been in the news for the last several years for the ways it tracks users around the web. This pernicious behavior is easily stopped by using browsers that respect user privacy and support user preferences. The best browser for user privacy is Brave. It’s built on the same code base as Google’s popular Chrome browser but doesn’t include the Google hooks that privacy advocates are worried about. What’s more is that it actively blocks the tracking that ad companies like Facebook and Google use. If you want the easiest way to a tracking-free web experience, switching to Brave is the best thing to do.
Brave is great. But there are benefits to Firefox that include better extensions and a commitment to extensions that simply aren’t available on Chromium-based browsers. For those of us who love Firefox, there’s an amazing Facebook extension called Social Fixer that offers many of the same options on the Firefox browser as Friendly offers on mobile including keyword-based post blocking, ad blocking and the ability to show most-recent posts first instead of what Facebook wants to show you.
Another great Firefox extension is called Facebook Container. This amazing extension isolates all your interactions with Facebook to a sandbox so that the rest of your browsing around the web can’t be tracked to your Facebook account. This means all of the user tracking that ad companies enjoy can’t be used on you. The websites see a new, virgin user because your Facebook activity is walled off from your web browsing.
If you see a Facebook ad, or if Facebook sees anything you do around the web, or if your Facebook experience is anything other than fast and great, it’s your fault. Take action now by using the right clients, browsers and extensions to control your experience.