Tech & The Web

Have You Downloaded Your Facebook Data Archive?

With concerns about the security of your personal information in the news, you can now see the Facebook data the social media giant has on you.

The amount of personal information available online almost always shocks people. That’s despite the fact that they’re usually the ones who put it there. Facebook data collected about its users, for example, largely is based on information they put in their own profiles and upload in their own accounts.

But the social media giant came under fire recently as the Cambridge Analytica report about access to millions of Facebook users’ data. Facebook says Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed personal information through an app that presented itself as a personality test.

Such apps often request access to certain parts of your profile. Unfortunately, almost everyone grants it without thinking twice if they really want to take the personality test.

That’s often their first mistake.

That’s why some Facebook users are now interested in seeing for themselves what Facebook really knows.

Downloading your Facebook data is simple.

Wondering what the big blue F has on you? Go to your profile’s settings. You’ll see a link to download your data. When you click that link, you’re taken to a confirmation page.

You’ll have to enter your password, but then Facebook will email you when your data archive’s ready to download.

But brace yourself: if you’ve been on Facebook for a while, there’s a lot to see.

I joined Facebook in October 2006, which means I’ve been on the service for 11.5 years. The archive took Facebook less than 15 minutes to prepare, but it’s a 94.5 MB document!

Before I even start looking at it, I’m already intimidated!

What does it know — or what does it think it knows — about me?

Among the details you receive is a list of your friends. It shows not only your current friends but those you’ve deleted over the years. Somehow, I’ve managed to delete 164 of them. I still have 997.

It will show you all of the photos and videos you’ve uploaded, as well as your personal details you’ve placed on your profile. All of that, of course, is easy enough to find on your own profile.

But one of the most interesting datasets is called “Ad Topics.” Based, apparently, on things it has seen you search for, it lists topics that might match certain advertisers so that it can match them to your feed.

At some point, I must have looked up the Bichon Frise dog breed, because that’s in my list. They’re adorable little dogs that resemble white powder puffs. But I’m a Rough Collie guy. Apparently, I also looked up the Venezuelan singer Karina. Except that I didn’t. I’ve never, in fact, even heard of the Venezuelan singer Karina. I have looked up the music group Needtobreathe and even know one of its members, so at least that one I can vouch for. I’ve also downed my share of Diet Coke, another item on my list. So that must be accurate as well.

The data also appears to include a variety of events I was somehow invited to. This strikes me as curious. It’d be one thing if it kept record of events I’d at least expressed interest in attending. But I have no interest in something called “MadanaRama 2018,” and I don’t even know where that event came from.

Still, it’s interesting, if a bit creepy, to see what Facebook has compiled.

The next question one might ask is how can we edit some of these details. That answer, so far, doesn’t seem clear.

Have you downloaded your Facebook data so far? What do you expect to be most surprised by?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.