Security Experts Warn All Gmail and Facebook Users to Do This Now

Your information and personal data could be at serious risk.

Logging on to your favorite social media account is something many of us do daily, whether we're posting photos or just scrolling through. Email, on the other hand, is a necessity, with even simple things like store receipts being digitized. But what many of us don't fully understand—or maybe just choose to ignore—is how our personal information and data are tracked when we use these online platforms. Now, security experts have issued a new warning about just that, advising users to take action immediately. Read on to find out what you should be doing for both your Gmail and Facebook accounts to keep your information protected.

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Your data is used and monetized by companies.

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When you hear "data collection," it doesn't sound all that scary at first. Most of us have been using the internet long enough to understand that some of our information is bound to end up in the digital universe, and if you're on social media, you may willingly share personal details about your life.

Sites use tracking technologies, like a cookie or tracking pixel to do this, according to Daniel Markuson, digital privacy and security expert at NordVPN. "These tracking technologies could be owned by advertising and marketing companies, government agencies, or other monitoring authorities. Usually, the owner of these websites agrees to sell your data to advertising companies in exchange for whatever service the advertising company provides."

This becomes more complicated when sites like Facebook and Google create profiles of your online behavior and identity. "That could involve anything from your name, age, address, and gender to your shopping habits, political leanings, and physical locations being stored in vast databases for advertising or national security purposes," Markuson said.

Customer data is a hot commodity, and yours may be used in ways you didn't realize. In order to avoid companies capitalizing on your information, there are steps you can take.

Security experts advise checking on your data sharing and tracking.

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Ever wonder why you searched for a new dresser and are suddenly getting ads from different furniture manufacturers? It all has to do with data sharing, according to Kim Komando, the host of the Kim Komando Show, a radio talk show that discusses tech, data, and the digital lifestyle. To control this, Komando recommends performing a privacy checkup to identify additional accounts you may have signed up with through your Facebook or Google/Gmail account.

In a feature for USA Today, Komando cautioned against using your accounts to sign in to different websites. It may seem easier to use your existing accounts to access new content, rather than setting up a separate account and password on the site itself. But when doing this, information about what you do or read on the website is likely shared with Facebook and Google, which may return the favor and share data back.

Thankfully, there are ways to stop both Facebook and Google from tracking your data this way. For each site, you'll want to check certain security features—which shouldn't take too long, but may reveal some surprising details.

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Here's how to perform a checkup for your Google account.

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Gmail is user-friendly and convenient, and when you use Google's browser Chrome, features and apps are even easier to integrate. This convenience also comes with some challenges, as the platform allows you to sign up for other accounts using your overarching Google account.

To check for services that may be connected, sign in to your Google account, click Security on the left-hand side, and then scroll down to Linked Accounts. This will reveal any accounts that you have previously signed up for via Google. Simply click Unlink to remove access. If you get pushback and are unable to unlink, this is also by design. You'll need to visit the third-party site directly and look for instructions to unlink connected accounts.

You can also explore Google's security page further and limit which apps have third-party access to different aspects of your Google account, Komando said.

Head to your Facebook page to limit tracking as well.

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Your Facebook account is a personal page, but that does not mean the app should be sharing details with companies and businesses. According to Art Shaikh, founder of CircleIt.com and two data-critical platforms, Facebook has a history of selling user data to advertisers. In 2021, the company changed its name to Meta, and with new virtual reality initiatives, more privacy issues could be raised in the future.

"Essentially, if you are on Facebook, Instagram, or Whatsapp—you're a commodity to Meta," Shaikh warned.

To control the data you allow Facebook to access, take 30 seconds to log in to Facebook on your computer and check for linked accounts. From there, click the downward arrow in the top right corner, then Settings & Privacy, then Select Settings. You can then click Apps and Websites on the lefthand side.

You can also do this from your iPhone or Android, where you will click the three-line menu, then Settings & Privacy, then Settings. On the iPhone, you will then scroll down to Permissions, then tap Apps and Websites. If you're an Android user, you will scroll down to Security, then Apps and Websites, then Logged in with Facebook.

No matter which method you choose, or which device you have, Facebook then makes it relatively simple to pick and choose which apps you want to disconnect.

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