Facebook has been making lots of headlines this week, and for all the wrong reasons. The company is in hot water for the unauthorized use of user information on its advertising platform, and everyone seems to be asking “Does Facebook know too much?”
Over the years, you’ve told Facebook a whole lot about you — from what kinds of music you like and what apps you use to your job history and favorite places to visit — and now’s a perfect time examine just how much info you’ve handed over.
Thankfully, Facebook makes it pretty easy to browse all of the stuff you’ve given it over the years; you just have to know where to find it.
Download Your Facebook Archive
A simple tool in Facebook’s settings lets you download all of your account data in one big file. Head into your Settings menu on the web version of Facebook and, at the bottom of the General Account Settings page, click the link that says “Download a copy of your Facebook data.” That takes you to a page with a button that says “Start My Archive.” Click it and enter your password to start the process.
It can take a while for Facebook to generate your archive, especially if you’ve been on the site for years and haven’t done it before. Once your archive is ready, you’ll get an email from Facebook with a download link. Click it to download a ZIP file of all your information.
After you unzip the folder, you’ll see all your information organized in different folders. As you browse through the different folders, you’ll notice that Facebook has an incredible amount of information about you, that you had no ideas was being tracked. For instance, I know that Facebook uses targeted ads (based on interests), but had no idea it also tracks every ad I click on, as well as the date, time, and what kind of device I’m using when I do it. TOO MUCH!
Facebook tracks some of the most obscure facts about us. For example, I can see a list of people I’ve deleted from my friend’s list, what kinds of news headlines I’ve hidden from my News Feed, and even every site I’ve ever “Liked” something on. The archive is packed with weird factoids like what searches you’ve typed into the Facebook search bar, and the exact times you’ve logged in and out of the social network. Here’s a convenient list of all the tidbits of information you’ll find in your archive.
Of course, there’s a lot of incredibly private data in there, too, like every Facebook Messenger conversation you’ve had, your religious and political views, the IP address of all your devices, and your current and past addresses. It’s a lot to digest, but it’s a great reminder of just how much data Facebook collects.
When you’re done browsing this huge treasure trove of your personal information, take these important steps to protecting yourself from privacy violations!