Analysis Tech

What does Facebook know about you?

Did you know that you can download your entire Facebook profile? I had heard about it, but never bothered to do it. Well, I finally did it.

Now, you might be thinking: “Why would I do that? I know what I’ve put on Facebook; I’m not an idiot.” Well, while I can’t judge your mental capacity, I can tell you that they have WAY more data on you than you have put there intentionally. I ended up with 283MB of data in my Facebook profile, of which about half consisted of my photos and videos.

So… what about the other half?

What is left is a variety of files, most of which are named in a rather self-explanatory manner. Take “your_posts.html” for example. It seems that back in 2006 I was a bit more active on the platform; on October 23, my status update of “eating popcorn” was pretty important to share with the world, says my 2006-old-self — as well as the other four status updates that day. I didn’t read through many of my posts, but I’m fairly sure that I don’t want to.

Getting to the juicy information

One interesting statistic offered up is the “advertisers who uploaded a contact list with your information.” Out of the 118 advertisers on my list, most of them made sense — various music artists and movies that I was interested in, airlines, major retail chains, and the like. However, a few stood out to me as odd: “Christina Aguilera” was one that I would have difficulty explaining. Apparently I didn’t know myself as well as I thought I did.

Another fun one is the “messages” folder. Simple enough, but it contains every message sent to or from your account… ever. So, all of those people you unfriended in a fit of rage? Yeah, they’re there. Long lost friends who deleted their Facebook account years ago in an attempt to cover their adolescent tracks? Yup, those are there too.

Friends. In addition to the apparent seventy people I’ve unfriended and two people who depressingly never responded to my friend requests, I also discovered that my first Facebook friend is one of my best friends today, so that part was refreshing — certainly more refreshing than the estimated location for every time I’ve logged into my profile.

Other than that, I didn’t come across anything that was too out of the ordinary.

But wait, what’s this? “face_recognition.html”? Oh, good. Computerized data categorizing my face in what looks very similar to a law enforcement profile. It seems that there is an option to turn this off, but I can rest assured that Facebook won’t feel pressured to delete it.

All in all, it was an interesting exercise, but I think I’ll leave the past right where it belongs.

Download your own Facebook profile

If you want to open your own personal time machine:

  1. Head over to Facebook
  2. Go to the drop-down arrow on the upper right corner of your screen (desktop only)
  3. Click “Settings”
  4. Click “Your Facebook Information”
  5. Click “Download Your Information”
  6. Check what data you want and click “Create File”

They’ll email you when it’s ready, but mine only took five minutes from the “Facebook download requested” email to the “Your Facebook download is ready” email.

Images courtesy of Pixabay.

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