How To: Make an Anonymous Facebook Profile to Keep Your Personal Data Private

Make an Anonymous Facebook Profile to Keep Your Personal Data Private

Between the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the revelation that Facebook logs your phone and text history on Android, many are considering joining the #DeleteFacebook movement. But it can be difficult to leave the site, because so much of its content is only available to active users. If you want to keep in the loop without sacrificing your privacy, you'll want to follow the steps below.

First, let's get this out of the way: Nothing on the internet is truly private. All of us who sign up for Facebook should know that every friend we make, event we accept, and picture we view is logged and tracked by the company. However, there are steps we can take when creating a new profile that can severely limit the information Facebook has access to. In fact, other than your activity on the site, Facebook won't see any of your personal data.

Step 1: Make a Burner Email or Phone Number

First, if you truly want to use Facebook off the grid, you'll need to sign up with an email account or phone number that is only used for your new profile. If you use a preexisting email account or phone number, your messages, search history, connected apps and more can potentially be fair-game for Facebook and its advertisers. The best practice here? Start from scratch.

There are two different ways to go about this. First, you can sign up for a new email account and only use it for creating your anonymous Facebook profile. You can choose whichever email service fits you best — the point is to make sure its only use is for your new Facebook account.

Secondly, you can use a phone number instead of an email account if you'd like. In that case, you're going to want to use a fake number. You don't want your real phone number attached to your private Facebook, as Facebook has massive databases of names and phone numbers that it could use to link your new anonymous profile back to you.

The easiest way to create this fake phone number is through Google Voice. While you do need to link your real phone number to the fake one on Google's end, Facebook will only be getting your burner digits.

Step 2: Set Up a New User Space on Your Phone (Android Only)

If you create a Facebook account on your Android device, it's very possible that Facebook will be able to pull from personal data stored on your phone to glean your real identity. To "sanitize" your phone, you should use your new Facebook in a new user space — much like the burner email or phone number, this will effectively be like using an entire burner phone to access Facebook.

To set up a new user, open Settings –> Users & Accounts –> Users –> Add user. This may be slightly different depending on your OEM skin and Android version, but if you're having trouble finding this menu, search the Settings app for "Users."

When prompted, you can choose to sign in using your fake email, but it isn't necessary. You won't need to sign in until you need to access the Google Play Store to download the Facebook app in your new user space (unless Facebook is preinstalled on your device), so feel free to tap "Skip" when prompted to sign into a Google account.

Next, add a name, preferably fake so neither Android nor Facebook can use it, then tap "Next." On the Google Services page, disable both "Location" and "Send system data" settings, to ensure maximum security. Then, tap "I agree."

Go ahead and set a PIN for your user space, tap "Next" then re-enter your PIN and tap "Confirm." Tap "No thanks" on the following screen to finalize your user space.

From now on, you can switch between the regular user space you normally use and this "burner" user space whenever you need to access Facebook. Like the burner email and phone number, the important thing here is that you only use this user space to access your anonymous Facebook account.

To switch between user spaces, open the notification shade on your Android device, then tap the silhouette icon near the bottom of your Quick Settings menu.

Step 3: Detach Yourself from the Official Facebook App

This step is somewhat optional, but after seeing how much personal data the Facebook app can harvest from some devices, you'll probably want to ditch the official Facebook app altogether. The best way to do this is by using either the Facebook mobile site or a Facebook wrapper app.

If you're running Android, we recommend an app called Metal. It's a Facebook wrapper meant to replace the official Facebook app, and among other things, it blocks ads and uses less power than the official app. While it might not provide foolproof security, Metal won't request or use sensitive device permissions like its official counterpart. If you hop over to Settings –> Permissions after installing it, you'll see Metal has no permissions enabled.

For maximum privacy, make sure to only install Metal on the secondary user space you created in Step 2. This is where you may need to sign into your Google account (to access the Play Store), but you can immediately sign back out by heading to Settings –> Accounts (or similar), then choosing the Google account you just added and tapping "Remove."

If you're on iOS and are missing the Metal experience, consider using the Facebook mobile site instead. While you won't get native security features, Safari does come packed with some privacy settings installed. Plus, Facebook's app will drain your battery — if nothing else, using the mobile site will extend your iPhone's lifespan.

Don't download the Facebook app — go to Facebook.com instead.

Step 4: Install a VPN

Even with totally false credentials, Facebook can still track your location when using its service. While there are location settings to disable, if you want to make sure Facebook can't track your new account, the best thing to do is install a VPN.

Simplified, a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, hides the user's location by acting as if the user is located wherever the VPN happens to be. This is useful to block Facebook from ever knowing where you really are.

There are a lot of VPNs out there, but many of the best aren't free. If you're not looking to break the bank, make sure to give Opera a try. You can download it for either iPhone or Android.

Step 5: Create a New Facebook Account

Once you have taken the above steps into account, whether on iOS or Android, it's now time to create that new Facebook profile. Head over to Facebook.com, or open Metal on your secondary user space to get started.

Tap "Create New Account," then enter a name, ideally something fake. Next, enter your burner number, or type in your burner email by tapping "Sign up with email" under Next. When finished, tap "Next."

Next, enter a password, then tap "Sign Up." If prompted, you can choose whether or not to log in to Facebook with one tap, versus logging in with your name and password. Once you decide, Facebook will either send you an SMS code if you provided a phone number, or a verification email if you entered an email. Type the code here then tap "Confirm," or verify your account via Facebook's email.

Welcome to your new, anonymous privacy-centered Facebook account. Now you can view groups, events and more without having to use your personal information. Once you configure these settings ...

Step 6: Change Your Facebook Privacy Settings

Just because you took the precautions in the steps above, that doesn't protect you from some privacy infringements on Facebook's part. Your account's privacy settings by default aren't perfect, and will only hurt your standing the longer you use your account.

To nip these problems in the bud, before you do anything with your profile, configure these settings. While Facebook still has plenty of ways to abuse your privacy after the fact, changing these settings gives you some armor against them. In today's world, you just have to take what you can get.

Cover image and screenshots by Jake Peterson/Gadget Hacks

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