If you’re looking for a weekend activity even more horrifying than doing your taxes, considering looking at every piece of data Facebook keeps on you. You can become frighteningly familiar with the details of what the social network knows about you by accessing your Facebook data. This is something that Facebook has allowed you to do for several years, but it takes on a new urgency in the aftermath of multiple Facebook data breaches by no fewer than three outside firms.
The process for downloading your Facebook data is a little convoluted, and you don’t get it instantly. You have to go into your Facebook settings, then click Download Your Information. You’ll then receive an email — if you use Gmail, it will likely be delivered to your Social tab — just confirming that you requested the data. You don’t actually get the data until Facebook sends you another email (SF Weekly received this email about 15 minutes after requesting it). You’re sent another link, and then you can download your data as a zip file.
That’s when things get bizarre and scary. A dataset called Ads contains a list of “Advertisers who uploaded a contact list with your info.”That will contain a few political campaigns and theaters you’d expect to see, but scores more that will shock and concern you. This SF Weekly reporter saw that my contact was uploaded by inexplicable groups like Oklahomans For Energy Options, New England Regional Council of Carpenters, and something called “怪獸與牠們的產地.”
A file named Contact_info will blow your mind, and probably not in a good way, by reliably displaying every single phone number and email you’ve corresponded with since the dawn of the smartphone era. Something called Security will show the specs of every single connected device on which you’ve ever logged in to Facebook.
Some of these can be fairly fun trips down Memory Lane, like all the Events you’ve attended, or your Friend Request history (You can still see who rejected your Friend Request from back in 2008!) Others are simply redundant to items you’ve probably scrolled through many times before, like your Photo or Video histories.
While the scope of this data is massive, the obvious problem here is that this is just the data that Facebook admits it keeps on you. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg left himself some wiggle room in testimony this week when he said, “I believe that all of your information is in that file.” In other words, he’s not committing for sure that you can see all the data Facebook keeps on you.
So if you want to avoid doing your taxes, a great way to do is is by going through Wired’s lengthy Complete Guide to Facebook Privacy and updating security settings as need be.