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How to delete, disable, or limit your Facebook account

There was a time when deleting your Facebook account was a pie-in-the-sky fantasy, but this week’s news might have you thinking twice. In a series of reports, we learned that an employee at Facebook erroneously handed a trove of data to a company called Cambridge Analytics, which in turn used that information to target voters and spread influence ahead of the 2016 election. So we totally understand if you’re having second thoughts about your account.

The good news is, you have options. First you can limit what third-party apps and the Facebook community can see about your account. If that’s not enough, you can deactivate your account, which can be undone, or full-on delete it—and even then, you have a chance to change your mind. Here’s how it works.

Limit your Facebook account

There are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want to nuke your Facebook account, but you can still lock it down. The easiest way is to take it private. Head over to Settings, then select the Privacy tab. At the top is a Your Activity window with a drop-down menu. If the “Who can see your posts” option is set to public, that means anyone can see what’s on your page, whether they have a Facebook account or not. Tap the Edit button and you’ll be able to limit view ability to just friends, only specific friends, or just yourself.

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If you want to take your Facebook account private, you’ll need to switch your privacy settings from Public to Only Me. 

You can also limit the data that third-party apps can access. Also in the Settings menu, click on the Apps tab. You’ll see a list of the apps that are connected to your account, which could be dozens or even hundreds if you’ve had an account for a while. Next to each app you’ll see a small “X” in the upper right corner that will remove it from your account. For apps that you want to keep, you can click on the edit button to limit some of its access to your account.

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To remove a third-party app from your Facebook account, just click the “X.”

Further down on the page you’ll find an “Apps Others Use” box. Click the edit button and you’ll see a series of checkboxes showing categories of information that your friends are sharing about you. Feel free to uncheck any box that makes you leery.

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Facebook will let you turn off the tool that trawls your timeline for relevant ad data.

And finally, there’s ad tracking. Like any other free service (social or otherwise), Facebook makes a trove of money through advertising, but you can limit how much of Audience Network you see (and how much it sees about you). Click on the Ads tab in Settings, and you’ll see a series of options that let you turn off ads based on your app usage and who can see your likes and reposts of ads. You won’t be able to turn off ads altogether, but you will be able to stop Facebook from using your activity to send “interest-based ads” your way.

Deactivate your Facebook account

deactivate facebook account settings general Melissa Riofrio/IDG

Go to your Facebook Settings and select General to find the deactivate option. 

Deactivating your Facebook account puts it on hiatus. Your profile will be removed from the site, as will most of what you posted to Facebook, though messages and other things will stick around).

Deactivation can be undone. Facebook will retain your data in case you decide to come back. You can always reactivate your account later by logging in to Facebook. If you’re not sure you want to leave permanently, this is a great way to try the Facebook-free life before you make a final decision. 

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