In light of recent events, you might be concerned about your online data and privacy — particularly on platforms like Facebook.
Social media and technology platforms like Facebook and Google collect massive amounts of data on their users. That’s especially disconcerting when that data could fall into the wrong hands, like we’ve seen with the recent Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
As the public outcry grows, Facebook is claiming to be taking steps to prevent anything like this in the future. CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress and the chief executive says the platform will limit the amount of data that third-parties can access in the future.
In the meantime, while you can take steps to shore up your Facebook privacy practices, it’s also helpful to know the full scope of the personal information that the social media juggernaut collects. Here’s how.
Luckily, Facebook has an easy feature that lets you download all of the data it’s collected on you. It’s called “My Archive,” and it’s pretty simple to use.
- Navigate to Facebook in your web browser of choice.
- Click on the Menu icon in the top-right corner of the page. It should look like a small downward arrow.
- Click on Settings.
- From here, you should be greeted with a General Account Settings menu. Somewhere in the middle of the page, you should see Download a copy of your Facebook data. Click on it.
- You’ll want to hit Start My Archive. Facebook will prompt you to authenticate with your password.
Facebook will now send an email with additional instructions and a link to download your archive. Depending on the age of your account, this could take a few hours.
Inside your archive will be several folders and a range of documents in .htm format.
But contained within could be some worrying data…
If you click on the file titled “index.htm,” you’ll be directed to an archive within your web browser. Inside, you might find.
- Phone numbers, email addresses and other contact information for many or all of your friends.
- The restaurants, businesses, airports and other locations you’ve “checked into” via Facebook
- The IP address for every device and network you’ve used to log into the platform.
- Your Account Status History. Basically, all of the times you’ve closed and reactivated your account.
- Your Active Sessions — anytime you’re logged in and actively using Facebook.
- Your facial recognition data, based on all of the selfies and profile pictures you’ve uploaded.
It’s also worth noting that Facebook also tracks your search history, the posts you like and other random data on its platform, but these aren’t contained in your archive. You can find this data in Activity Log.
Just make sure you’re logged into Facebook, click on your own profile, and click “View Activity Log.”
While your archive will have some data on your ad preferences and the advertisers you’ve interacted with, it won’t give you the full story. For that, you need to access your ad preferences.
- Click on the Menu icon (downward arrow).
- Click Settings.
- Click on Ads in the left sidebar menu.
From here, you’ll be brought to your ad preferences — basically, the data Facebook leverages to show you targeted advertisements. And there are a few interesting and rather creepy things you can find here.
For example, under Your information, and Your categories, you’ll see several assumptions that Facebook’s algorithms have made on you.
You might find that it’s guessed your interests, rough political and religious views, as well as other categories, such as whether you’re a frequent traveler or a small business owner. Weirdly, there’s also a “multicultural affinity” — such as African American or Hispanic — that the platform may have tagged you with.
Luckily, you can delete as much of this data as you want. At the very least, it’ll throw Facebook’s ad algorithm out of whack.