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 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 and 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. If you want to take control of your privacy while continuing to use the platform, we’ll teach you everything you need to know in this article.
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 for 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.
How to See What Data Facebook is Tracking
There are a lot of ways to see what information Facebook is tracking and storing about you. Fortunately, the mobile application makes it really easy to see what is being stored and, in some cases, how Facebook obtained the data. So, let’s get started with the easiest method first.
Keep in mind, that all of these instructions will appear by following the Three-line menu icon>Settings path on the mobile app.
How to See Your Off-Facebook Activity
We’ll start with showing you which apps Facebook is gathering information about you from. Open the Settings on the Facebook app and follow these steps:
- Scroll down in Settings to the Off-Facebook Activity option under the Your Facebook Information heading.
- Tap on Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity.
- A new page will appear where you can see each source of information. Tap on one to learn more.
- After tapping on one of the sources in the list, you will see which tools Facebook used to collect the data, the number of interactions received, and how the company is using this information.
If you feel this is a little too invasive you can delete all of the Off-Facebook history on your account by clicking the Clear History option shown in step 2 above. But, do keep in mind this may effect some of your login information and game progress depending on the application.
You can also prohibit the individual app from communicating your personal information following these steps as well. Tap on the Turn off future activity from… option to stop an individual source from communicating with Facebook about your Off-Facebook activity.
Access Your Facebook Information
Your ‘Facebook Information’ is a broad term for various pieces of data the company has about you. Some of it is pretty standard stuff like your Facebook posts and friends. Other elements of this section are a little more intriguing. Let’s take a look:
- Go to the Settings on your Facebook account. Then, tap on Access Your Information under the Your Facebook Information heading.
- Next, you’ll see a page with quite a few categories. You can click on any of these to access links to the information is storing about you. For our example, we’ll tap on Logged Information.
- Scroll through the list of options to find out more.
Although it make take some time to go through each category, and through each sub-category, Facebook really does make it easy to see what the company is collecting and how. But, there are other methods too.
Download your Facebook information:
Another option, a more long-term option, is to download all of your Facebook information onto a device of your chocie. 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:
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 needing 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. 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 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 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 you attend.
You can control how advertisers use 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Protecting your privacy is of utmost importance. In case we didn’t cover everything you wanted to know about Facebook’s activities, we have the answers to more of your questions.
What does Facebook do with the data they track?
As you can see, Facebook keeps track of a lot of data and personal information. The majority of this information is used for marketing purposes. Facebook collects information on what you buy, what your friends buy, the groups your join (to see your interests) then, shows you ads that the company thinks you may like.
Facebook also uses the information they collect to add features and functions to the platform that could make the user’s experience even better. Whenever Facebook does a new update and the interface changes, this is a result of data collected about how users interact with the app or website.
Facebook also collects data on things that you or your friends post. For example, the company uses facial recognition to better track your photos and videos. This is one of the reasons you may see tagging suggestions when you upload a photo. Like many other features on Facebook, you can turn this off by going to the Settings>Face Recognition selections and tapping the option to turn this off.
Is there a list of everything that Facebook collects about its users?