Tam Smith and Peter Radford are taking steps to learn just how much information social media giant Facebook has on them.

  • Facebook collects data about you for marketing purposes
  • Social media giant labels you based on political leanings
  • You have some control over what data is shared with 3rd parties

“There was more information out there about me than I ever though there would be. It’s somewhat shocking to me, because I didn’t realize half of what was going on,” Radford said.

“I was horrified that it was shared in the way it was shared and being used in the way it was being used,” Smith said.

Your Facebook profile

Facebook constantly collects information on you from your likes, location, friends and more. They use that data to help target ads to your feed.

“The sharing of the information with businesses that are marketing to you or with companies that are marketing for political reasons, I just don’t like that,” Smith said.

“The ads sure match my interests, 100 percent. I can tell you that,” Radford said, laughing, even though he doesn’t like what they’re doing, either.

“I think it’s an invasion of privacy,” he said.

Facebook assumptions

Based on your information and activity on the site, Facebook makes assumptions about you, such as your shopping interests and your political views.

For example, it categorizes you as either moderate, liberal, very liberal, conservative or very conservative.

“I found out I was labeled ‘very conservative.’ I thought I was moderate,” Radford said, laughing and shaking his head.

Smith, on the other hand, was labeled “very liberal.”

“I don’t know that I’d call myself 'very liberal,' but I am liberal," she said.

To find out what political leanings and other labels Facebook attributes to you, here are the steps to follow:

  • Go to your Facebook page
  • Click the little arrow in the upper right hand corner
  • From the drop-down menu, click on “Settings”
  • Click on “Ads” in the list on the left side of your screen
  • Click on “Your Information”
  • Then click the sub-category “Your Categories”
  • That gives you the list of labels Facebook has assigned to you

If you disagree with a label that’s been assigned to you or you don’t want it to be used, you can delete it.

How information is shared

According to Facebook, this is how some of your information is shared with businesses:

When you share information such as your phone number or email address with a business, they may add it to a customer list that can be matched to your Facebook profile. Sources of this kind of information include:

  • Loyalty programs (for example, a supermarket "club card")
  • Information compiled by data providers
  • Purchases at retail stores

Sharing info with apps

Be careful about logging into apps that you download with your Facebook account. It might make interacting with that business or service quicker and easier, but by doing that you give them permission to cross-share information about you.

You can check which apps Facebook has connected to your account by going to “Apps and Websites” under the settings on the left side, right above “Ads.”

If you don’t want apps connected, click on them and hit remove. You can also control your ad preferences and hide different ad topics you don’t want to see.

Take control

Despite the uproar over the privacy of Facebook users, the social media giant says it hasn’t seen a big shift in consumers changing their privacy settings or behavior.

You can download your entire Facebook footprint — all your posts, pictures, messages, and more from the time you joined — by following these steps:

  • Click at the top right of any Facebook page and select Settings
  • Click Download a copy of your Facebook data below your General Account Settings
  • Click Start My Archive

For now, Smith says she will continue to enjoy connecting with friends and family through the social networking platform but with a more keen awareness of controlling her settings and privacy.

“I know people who immediately said, ‘Bye, guys, I’m leaving.’ I haven’t done that yet, but I might,” Smith said. “You should have control over your own information.”