I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes.

from NYTs

When I downloaded a copy of my Facebook data last week, I didn’t expect to see much. My profile is sparse, I rarely post anything on the site, and I seldom click on ads. (I’m what some call a Facebook “lurker.”)

But when I opened my file, it was like opening Pandora’s box.

With a few clicks, I learned that about 500 advertisers — many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronica band — had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number and full name. Facebook also had my entire phone book, including the number to ring my apartment buzzer. The social network had even kept a permanent record of the roughly 100 people I had deleted from my friends list over the last 14 years, including my exes.

There was so much that Facebook knew about me — more than I wanted to know. But after looking at the totality of what the Silicon Valley company had obtained about yours truly, I decided to try to better understand how and why my data was collected and stored. I also sought to find out how much of my data could be removed.

How Facebook collects and treats personal information was central this week when Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, answered questions in Congress about data privacy and his responsibilities to users. During his testimony, Mr. Zuckerberg repeatedly said Facebook has a tool for downloading your data that “allows people to see and take out all the information they’ve put into Facebook.” (Those who want to download their own Facebook data can use this link.)

But that’s an overstatement. Most basic information, like my birthday, could not be deleted. More important, the pieces of data that I found objectionable, like the record of people I had unfriended, could not be removed from Facebook, either.

“They don’t delete anything, and that’s a general policy,” said Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of DuckDuckGo, which offers internet privacy tools. He added that data was kept around to eventually help brands serve targeted ads.

More here.

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53 Responses to I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes.

  1. Schron B November 9, 2018 at 6:43 pm #

    The internet has become the most powerful advertising tool in the world. The fact that the majority if not everything that is posted online stays somewhere online makes it incredibly valuable for companies to take advantage of the wealth of data. That is something that most people know and likely understand. Facebook storing hordes of this information and giving it out to 3rd party advertisers is not. As a company they tend to claim that all user information is this sacred thing that they would not dare give away to anyone. But throughout Facebook’s existence and increasingly so recently, it is proven that those claims are false.

    If a brand that i have never even heard of has my contact information that is a definite problem and its very alarming. That means that Facebook is literally giving information to whoever even somewhat needs it. Hundreds of companies with access to the public’s private information is unacceptable and unfortunately it feels like its too late to expect Facebook to actually do better. Ultimately, the only way anything will change is if Facebook’s profits get damaged by user backlash. Even so that is still unlikely to happen due to many people simply being unaware of the information that is spread out already.

  2. Cassie sibilski November 16, 2018 at 8:44 pm #

    We’re always told to watch what we put and share online because what goes onto the internet is there forever. Some people are also aware that social media sites such as Facebook are taking all of the data that we put in, as well as the data from apps that we’ve allowed Facebook access to, and they are storing it, selling it, and using it for their own personal gain. When you really think about how much information they have on each of us, it’s pretty scary. This article is written by someone who had printed out their Facebook data, and was shocked at how many advertisers had their contact information, how Facebook kept and stored their entire contact list, and disturbingly, even the “buzzer to ring [their] apartment”. The weird thing about Facebook having all of this data, is that it doesn’t allow you to delete certain pieces of data. And if it does, it takes a while for the information to truly be “deleted”, and even then it’s probably still out there somewhere. What’s worse is that sites like Facebook are also connected to google and other sites. So all of your data and information from all of these platforms gets combined, ultimately to form an entire digital identity of you. This is very crazy to think about and the author of the article describes seeing all of the data Facebook had in her, as “you won’t be able to unsee it”, which must mean it’s incredibly shocking. Something else the author said that I think is alarming is that she’s not an avid user of Facebook and that she really doesn’t use it often. So think about the people that post every second of their lives to Facebook. Only word I have for it is that it’s scary to imagine. Knowing the internet has all kinds of data on me and my personal information, as well as all of my friends and family is crazy to think about.

  3. Kayla Clavijo March 1, 2019 at 8:05 pm #

    Social networking websites are becoming one of the primary forms of communication used by people of all ages and backgrounds. No doubt, we have seen numerous benefits from the impact of social media communication. However, there is one common fear among all social media users and that is if their privacy, or data is being violated on the web. In this article, the problem now, is that users are finally realizing that companies have been mining our data ever since we first made a Facebook! Though users can change their privacy settings to limit with whom their profile information is shared, Facebook gathers and stores more than most of us want to acknowledge. To begin with, the author of the article, Brian Chen, stated that he was a very infrequent user and was very surprised to find that Facebook still had a sizeable amount of information and data on him. It doesn’t matter if he was a frequent user or not, the more time Facebook keeps users on the site, the more data it can collect on each user. This data is what brings advertisers to the platform, and ultimately what puts dollars in Facebook’s coffers. In fact, Facebook uses a number of software tools to do this tracking. When internet users venture to other sites, Facebook can still monitor what they are doing with software like its ubiquitous “Like” and “Share” buttons. In addition, despite people’s fear of privacy disclosures after the Facebook data scandal, users and investors alike don’t seem to mind Google harvesting their data. In the article, Chen points out that Facebook is not even necessarily the platform we should be most worried about. The file that Google had collected on him was about 12.5 times larger than what Facebook had compiled. Companies like Facebook and Google have been compiling information on their users for years on file. For this reason, Google is just as guilty as Facebook when it comes to allowing hyper targeted advertisements. Google, just like Facebook, collects a lot of personal data about its users. While many of us might have put that thought to the back of our minds, Chen reminded us of the true extent of these companies great data grab, with a simply click.

    Personally, I find this to be one of the craziest things about the modern age. It frightens me to know how much information Facebook and Google has gathered from me and other users. I am unsure if I want to see what Facebook or Google has collected on me after Chen pointed out at the end of his article.. it’s hard to unsee the invasion of privacy. We fail to realize that Facebook’s privacy policies reinforces the message that “you have control over who sees what you share on Facebook.” But if you use Facebook at all, you don’t have much control over what Facebook itself sees about you. This is very upsetting because Zuckerberg promised to take privacy concerns more seriously, ensured members of Congress that he was open to regulation, and pledged to do more to stop bad actors from abusing his platform. In a perfect world, if we all band together, and agree to kill these companies off.. our privacy among the web wouldn’t be so questionable. In my opinion, we’d be better off without them. I’d be better off without them. You’d be better off without them.

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