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 the recent Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
As the public outcry grows, Facebook is claiming to take steps to prevent anything like this in the future. CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the Congress and the chief executive says the platform will be the amount of data that third-parties can access the future.
In the meanwhile, while you have to 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.o
How to View Your Facebook Data
Fortunately, Facebook has a simple feature that allows you to download all the data collected about you. It’s called “My Archive” and it’s pretty simple to use.
- Access Facebook in the web browser of your choice.
- Click the Menu icon in the upper right corner of the page. This should look like a little down arrow.
- Click Settings
- From there, 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 want to hit Start My Archive. Facebook will ask you to authenticate with your password.
Facebook will now send an email with additional instructions and a link to download your archives. Depending on the age of your account, it may take a few hours.
In your archive, you will find several folders and a range of documents in .htm format.
But contain disturbing data …
What you might find
If you click on the file named “index.htm”, you will be redirected to an archive of your web browser. Inside, you might find.
- Phone numbers, e-mail addresses and other contact information for many or all your friends.
- Restaurants, shops, airports and other places you have “registered” via Facebook
- The IP address of each device and network that you used to connect to the platform.
- Your account history Basically, every time you closed and reactivated your account.
- Your active sessions – whenever you are logged in and actively using Facebook.
- Your facial recognition data, based on all the selfies and profile pictures you have uploaded.
- It should also be noted that Facebook also tracks your search history, publications you like and other random data on its platform, but these are not contained in your archive. You can find this data in the activity log.
Just make sure you’re signed in to Facebook, click on your own profile and click on “View Activity Log”.
View your “Ad Preferences”
Although your archive contains data about your advertising preferences and the advertisers you have interacted with, it will not give you the full story. To do this, you need to access your ad preferences.
- Click on the menu icon (down arrow).
- Click Settings.
- Click Ads in the menu on the left sidebar.
From there, you will be brought to your advertising preferences – basically, the data that Facebook uses to show you targeted ads. And there are some interesting and scary things you can find here.
For example, under Your Information and Your Categories, you will see several assumptions that Facebook’s algorithms have made about you.
You may find that you have guessed your interests, your approximate political and religious opinions, as well as other categories, for example if you are a regular traveler or a small business owner. Strangely, there is also a “multicultural affinity” – like the African-American or Hispanic – with which the platform may have tagged you.