How To Check What Data Facebook Holds On You

There's an easy way to see what information Facebook has collected.  I'll explain it here, then suggest a couple of strategies to minimise your data down.

I'm not a tech expert, so if I have anything wrong, or you can add to this, please do so in the comments.

Log into Facebook on a computer, and click the wee downward arrow on the right of the blue bar, then select settings.

Under the General Settings page, selected on the left side of the page, there's a link to Download a copy of your Facebook Data.  You'll receive an acknowledgement email then, a while later, an email with a time-limited link to download the data.

The data you receive might be anything from horrifically detailed to utterly bland.  It largely depends on how you configured your Facebook settings, such as whether you gave it permission to track you or access your contents.

The phone App in particular is somewhat invasive.  If you leave it running while doing other things, it will track which websites you visit, ostensibly to give you a better selection of adverts.  According to The Guardian article, people using the method I've described to download their data discovered Facebook kept "complete logs of incoming and outgoing calls and SMS messages.  It's worth a read.

Also if you signed into any third party apps or websites using Facebook, rather than creating a separate account, Facebook can track what you enter.

So should you delete Facebook?  The #deletefacebook campaign is certainly growing in strength.

I considered it, but decided against so doing after I downloaded and read the data Facebook held on me.

It was very bland.

Incidentally, that page alongside shows what comes in the zip-file once it is downloaded.

Why so bland?  Partly it's because I have carefully configured my Facebook settings.  I'll not bore you with the details, but spend a little time going through those settings.  It's very obvious what you should tweak if you want to be the one using Facebook, rather than the other way around.  Pay particular attention to the Adverts settings.  Facebook has recently posted a blog to guide users through Privacy Settings.

There is one other practice I regularly follow - the Facebook purge.

No-one reads posts more than a few weeks old, so at the end of every month, I use an App called Social Book Post Manager to wipe out everything on my Facebook page.  The App only works in the Chrome browser, so you'll need that installed too.  I also go into my Facebook photos and delete them.  If I want to keep a diary, I'll decide what goes into it - like this Blog - not the Facebook algorithm.

There's a good, detailed post on Martin Lewis' site about Facebook security plus Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Twitter.

Along with many people I don't like Facebook but find it a necessary evil.  In our rural part of NW Scotland it has become the main platform for sharing information - controversial planning applications, up-coming concerts and events.  I occasionally use it to see what my 'Friends' are up to, and if I want to let them know anything special I'll post.  But mostly I use Facebook for reading, not Liking or posting.


Ian Johnston said...

Hi Simon,

I chose not to use Facebook at all and have never had an account. Years ago when it was an up and coming platform I attended an I.T. security seminar as part of my work. Having listened to various speakers and learned about the way that Facebook uses whatever data it holds on individuals, I vowed never to use it.... Any medium where you sign away ownership of your personal data, no matter how bland, isn't for me! As an example, you might want to consider how Facebook records and uses any information you either read or post concerning controversial planning applications - and who they'll sell that data to?

james said...
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