It is best to assume that whatever messages, status updates, or other information you have uploaded or typed into Facebook will be publicly available to anyone who wants it at some point in the future.
It is unlikely that will ever be the case, but between accidental data leaks, elaborate hacking operations, and other schemes, we are better off assuming nothing we do on Facebook is “secure.”
Since the recent revelation that a company sold Facebook user data, I have been asked a lot of questions about what data Facebook has on its users and how users can protect themselves from being exploited by future mistakes at Facebook.
The next two weeks I want to give you two posts: 1) an explanation of what data Facebook has on you and 2) an explanation of how to limit the data Facebook has on you.
So, let’s hop into it. (Also, if the screenshots below are hard to see, open them in a separate tab, and they will be easier to see there.)
What Data Does Facebook Have on Me?
It has every message you have ever sent, every picture you have ever uploaded, every status you’ve ever posted, and plenty more.
It knows what kind of phone you use, what kind of email service you have, if you live near or far from family, how you spend your free time, and more.
A lot of people know this, but I am learning that many do NOT know this.
Facebook has more data on you than whatever you put in your “About” section.
Facebook’s AI technology “reads” your statuses, observes what you click on, and more to get a full picture of who you are.
Everything you communicate through Facebook is harvested to generate a picture of who you are: from your religion to your phone operating system.
Where Can I See What Data Facebook Has on Me?
On the Facebook home page, click the drop-down arrow in the upper-right. There you will find a “Settings” option. Click that.
Then, once you’ve clicked that, you have a couple of options.
Option number one, one the left, is “Ads.” If you click that, it sends you to a page with all of the different interests, demographics, and other data Facebook is giving to advertisers about you. Here is one of the sections (There are many on that page. Check them out.):
The other option on the “Settings” homepage, option #2, is to “Download a copy of your data,” which when you click, sends you here:
When do click on the “Start My Archive” button to download your data, Facebook will take a few minutes to give you a .ZIP file of everything you have ever posted or sent on the platform. Download the file and you can look through it.
Any Data Facebook Has Is Vulnerable
Because Facebook has this stuff on file and is within its rights to give at least some of it to advertisers in order to target advertising to Facebook users, it is vulnerable to be misused or leaked at any time. Even if you see Facebook as a “benevolent dictator” or a “neutral tool,” you have to be aware that some people may figure out ways to exploit this data trove.
Some of you may already know about this, but I have a feeling it may also be news to some of you—and scary news at that. It is important to simply be aware. But, if you want to take some steps to protect yourself, you can.
Next week I’ll have a post for you about how you can lock down your data and give Facebook as little data as possible.