The debacle of Facebook user data used by Cambridge Analytica has raised some serious concerns among everyone in the world. While the fight against Privacy is not new, the way Facebook and User data has become accessible to others is a concern now.
That said, you will be surprised to know that we all kind of agreed to this when signing up for Facebook. So the problem is not just with Facebook alone, but its also our ignorance where we agree to anything to get all the attention we can have on social media, and we are not paying the price.
Like every other service, Facebook does allow you to download all your data, and activity, and if you look at them, you will be shocked at how much Facebook knows about you.
How to download Facebook Data
- Sign-in to Facebook Account.
- Click on the down arrow button, and click on Settings > General > Click on the link which says “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”
- It will verify your password, and ask you to wait till a backup is created.
- Once the backup is complete, an email will be sent to you. If you stay on the same page, you should get the option to Download the Archive.
The download size could be around ~500 MB to 1000 MB.
What data does Facebook store
In brief, everything you have done on Facebook is backed up. When you extract the file downloaded, it looks like the image below. It has folders for all the messages, photos, videos, and the main page which lets you surf throughout.
This folder contains all audio, video, files, stickers, and other elements of conversation. The message text is available in each of the HTML pages and rest are linked. They include the timestamp for each message, and exactly in same order as you had conversed.
This is your archive of all the images you have uploaded to your Facebook. The data from the images including location and EXIF data are stored as well. This gives them a clear idea which phone you had been using, your location, and so on.
The same goes for Videos and other things.
As a summary, Facebook has all this data with them-
- Every message you’ve ever sent or received.
- Every file you’ve ever sent or received.
- All the contacts on your phone.
- All the audio messages you’ve ever sent or received.
- Things you had been interested which is based on your searches, pages, and content you have liked, and topics you and your friends talk about.
- They also store every time you log into Facebook, where you logged in from, what time, and from what device
- All the applications you’ve ever had connected to your Facebook account.
- The files you download, the games you play, your photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what Radio stations you listen to.
The amount of data we have given to Facebook because of ignorance mind-boggling. They can create a profile of your every move. The apps can tell your current states when you were single when you dated somebody, and when you got married. The messages are scanned for keywords which give the idea of what you had been thinking. The call history and messages know which people influence you most.
All this can be used to change your decision about anything. It’s not just about politics, it’s about everything that’s online, and offline.
What can you do to minimize the impact
Almost all the things you’ve listed can be individually disabled, and you can delete them as well. However, the choice is entirely yours. It may not be possible to totally get off the network, but it’s a good idea to make it more private.
We have written a complete guide on how to harden Facebook Privacy settings. It shows how you can keep your posts private or only with friends, permissions to tags, and so on.
However, there are two things I will add here.
- Settings > Face: Recognition will make sure that your photos aren’t tagged automatically when somebody posts it online.
- Settings > Apps: This lists down all the apps you have connected with Facebook till date. I am sure there will be many which you had not used for a while, and it’s a good idea to get rid of them. Select them, hit remove. It will also remove anything that was posted by those apps on your behalf.
All in all, there is no escape, but this post should be an eye-opener for you. This happens with every social network. The same goes for Google and YouTube. They can track your every move. So be careful when using a Social network. These companies aren’t running for free. Your data is a gold mine for advertisement and can be used against you to change your mindset, and decision.
PS: If you have installed Facebook Messenger app, then it also stores your call and text message history in log form.
Be smart about what you share on Social Network, Apps you connect with, and above all keep your private life, private.