How to See Everything Facebook Knows About You
To say Facebook is a popular social media service is certainly downplaying all that it truly is. Facebook is a global corporation, offering advertising and business products. The everyday user logs in to see their friends, family, and possibly funny memes while rarely considering what information this company is collecting about them.
Facebook is no stranger to questionable privacy practices. In 2018, the company was subject to a scandal known as the Cambridge Analytica dealings, the company was also a part of a massive data breach and even had to pay the FTC $5 billion dollars for consumer privacy violations.
Once the news broke, there was a spike in searches for how to delete a Facebook account as well as people looking for ways to have greater control of their Facebook data and what the site knows about them. Fortunately, the company made it possible for users to learn more about their information, and we have explained how to do that below. You can also discover if you, or your friends, were victims of the Cambridge Analytica scandal using this online tool.
Be warned, though, there really is a worrying amount of information. Some people have even noticed Facebook has been tracking all the calls and texts made using their mobile, many without realizing it.
How Intrusive is Facebook?
There’s a running joke that Facebook is listening to your conversations outside of the application. Many users have stated they’ve had a conversation, and Facebook later presents an ad related to that conversation. The founder staunchly disputes this rumor, but Facebook’s tracking algorithms are so good, they almost seem true.
So what information is Facebook collecting and how are they using it?
Off-Facebook activity is how Facebook is tracking your shopping and travel habits. According to Facebook, when you search something online or even go into a brick and mortar store to make a purchase, that company shares your information with Facebook. Once Facebook receives this information, the company uses it to send more personalized advertisements to your News Feed.
Apps and Web Activity
This permission is especially useful for you, as a user, because you can quickly log into most websites, apps, and even store your game progress in some cases.
Other information included in this category are as follows:
- Your contacts – To help find “People You May Know”
- Networks and Connections – Who and how you’re interacting with others
- Transactions and Usage – How you use Facebook and its affiliated companies (WhatsApp, Instagram, etc.)
This includes everything from your location to your IP Address, and even your battery life. Once you’ve downloaded Facebook or signed in on a web browser, Facebook has access to where you are and what type of device you’re using.
To better help detect bots, Facebook can even track your mouse movements while using the platform.
Any Information That You Provide
From posts to interests, events, and profile information is stored by Facebook. If you’ve listed your political or religious views on Facebook, the company is tracking and storing that information.
So, if you still want to see everything Facebook knows about you with just a couple of clicks and a bit of patience, here is how:
Download your Facebook information:
Click the down arrow on your Facebook account and head to Settings and Privacy then Settings.
On the left side, click Your Facebook Information.
Click View next to Download Your Information.
On the next page, click Create File.
Click Available Copies the click Download Again.
You will be prompted to enter your password.
The file comes down as a .zip so make sure you have something capable of unpacking them, both OS X and Windows 10 handle this without the need for extra software.
Now you can browse your way through a set of web page-like stores of information. For instance, index.htm is an archived version of your Facebook profile including past relationships, jobs, and education institutions (my account is in “l33t” so that is why everything is written weirdly). You can view every photo you have uploaded along with all the EXIF data Facebook has on it – i.e. where and when it was taken, and even where it was uploaded. You can even see everyone you have ever unfriended. Sorry guys.
In fact, Facebook has kept track of every event you have ever attended, videos uploaded, locations and devices you have logged in from, the messages you have sent, the images it compiles for facial recognition, and even what advertising topics it thinks you prefer being served.
Download Facebook Data from a Mobile Device
It may be simpler to just download your data from Facebook on a mobile device. To do this, follow these steps:
Open the Facebook app and tap on the three horizontal lines to access Settings. (The three lines may be in the top left or right corner depending on your OS).
Tap on ‘Download Your Facebook Information‘ located under the Your Facebook Information section.
Uncheck any information you don’t care to download and make your date and file type selections. Tap ‘Create File‘ when you’re ready to download.
How to Control What Facebook Knows About You
If you’re concerned about the information Facebook has about you, you can completely close your account (but beware, your photos, friends, and even logins will be lost). Facebook states that if a user closes their account, all information that was gathered from that account is removed.
The exception to this is that Facebook will still have some of your information thanks to your friends and connections.
Another way of controlling what Facebook collects your information is by minding your activity on the site. As stated above, Facebook will keep track of anything you post or put on your profile, any groups that join, or even events that you attend.
You can control how advertisers are using your data by visiting your account settings and selecting ‘Ad Settings.’ You can toggle the available options from ‘Allow’ to ‘Not Allowed.’
This will likely mean that you will receive random advertisements that don’t apply to you, but if you’re privacy-minded, doing these things is a good start to taking back control of your personal information.