Do you want to know the real reason why 1.15 billion people are using Facebook? It’s because there are 1.15 billion on Facebook, making it the one of the best resources for information on any given individual with an account. The social network’s growing population is what makes it the best research tool, and even though Mark Zuckerberg is the brains behind this juggernaut of a tech company, at the end of the day, it’s the data people voluntarily give the site that gives it its immense power. And you are the supplier of said data and said power.
And you know what they say about power: With it comes great responsibility, and that’s also true when it comes to being active on social media. It’s a good thing Facebook allows users to request personal data stored on the social site. They also provide a way for you to download your personal information. However, before we get into the how-to of it all, here’s where you can double-check what information you have on the surface and what you can expect to get from your Facebook data archive.
Where your data is displayed
Timeline: This is first, most obvious place to find any bit of information that relates to you. Everything you’ve every posted on the site can essentially be accessed through your own Facebook Wall (even though it’s not called that anymore) and depending on how tight you’ve set up your account and privacy settings, you will be able to review personal posts by logging into your Facebook account.
Inbox: Just like email, this is where you can find all the personal messages you’ve sent and received, either offline or through chat. Additionally, you have the Other inbox, but more often than not, it contains stuff you wouldn’t necessarily want to bother with (but please, for your peace of mind, check it anyway).
About Me page: If you’ve filled out every section on this page, anybody who has access to it can find out all about you – your name, where you’re from, where you work or go to school, your birthday, your relationship status, your gender, your political and religious affiliation, and other pertinent contact information like email and phone number (and much more). At a glance, you can also see a section for your photos, your Friends list, your Instagram feed, pages you’ve liked, and places you’ve checked into. It goes without saying that to be on the safe side, your About Me page should at least be restricted to Friends Only view.
Activity Log: This is what you check out when you want to backtrack on your steps in the site. You can review the posts you’ve liked, commented on, and shared. You can review posts wherein people have tagged you, and if you have the option enabled, this is where you approve them for posting to your Timeline. You can look at all the apps you have used and go through all the keywords you have ever typed into Graph Search (and if you want to delete all traces of your Facebook stalking, this is where you clear all search results).
What’s inside a Facebook data archive
Now that we’ve covered all the obvious spots that showcase your information, let’s go through the contents of your data download and summarize the list Facebook has provided.
- Generic personal information, such as all the contents of your About Me page (see above), any home addresses you’ve associated with your account, alternate and maiden names you’ve declared, any name changes to the original name you used at sign-up.
- Marketing information, like ads that you’ve clicked and the dates and times of when you clicked them and a list of ad topics that Facebook is targeting you for based on pages you’ve liked, your interests, and other information you’ve posted on your Timeline.
- Credit card information (if you’ve ever given it to purchase apps or ads) and your preferred currency.
- Timeline information, AKA anything anyone has ever posted on your wall (and vice versa) and everything you have ever posted on Facebook, including photos (along with their corresponding metadata), videos, and status updates.
- Apps and badges you’ve added to your account
- Events you’ve joined
- Pages you’re an administrator of
- Messages you’ve sent and received, NOT including ones that you have deleted.
- Notes you’ve published
- Pokes you’ve given and received (yes, really), not including ones given and received through the mobile app.
- Connection information, like your Facebook Chat history, a list of people who’ve liked your page or RSVPed to your event, anybody who’s installed your app or checked into a place you advertised within 24 hours of viewing or clicking on an ad or Sponsored Story, your friends list, a list of people you’ve removed as friends, users you’ve declared as family members, list of people you follow and who follow you, pending sent and received friend requests, and all the groups you are a member of.
- Facial recognition data, defined as “a unique number based on a comparison of the photos you’re tagged in” that is used to help other people tag you in photos.
- Account information, such as your IP address, dates and times associated with logins to your Facebook account, registration date, dates when your account was reactivated, deactivated, disabled or deleted, active sessions and all the information that goes with them (date, time, device, IP address, machine cookie and browser information), the language you use Facebook with, your notification settings, current privacy settings (previous ones are not saved), actions you’ve done and interactions you’ve had recently, and the URL username you chose for your account.
A few caveats, though. As per Facebook’s Help Center:
“We store different categories of data for different time periods, so you may not find all of your data since you joined Facebook. You will not find information or content that you have deleted because this is deleted from Facebook servers… Also note that the categories of data that we receive, collect, and save may change over time. When this happens, [our list of Facebook data categories available] will be updated.”
Ways to get a copy of your personal data
Now that you know the extent of how well Facebook knows you (you can’t get too mad, we’ve been talking about this for years now), it’s now time to explore your options on requesting a copy of all the personal data Facebook has.
Option 1: Have them take care of it. You may send Facebook a personal data request directly.
Option 2: Download your own archive. You may do so by clicking on the gear icon on the top-right corner of the screen and going to Account Settings. There you will find a link that says, “Download a copy of your Facebook data”.
This will lead you to a page where it tells you a short version of what’s included in the archive (but by now, you know better). Click on Start My Archive.
You will need to supply your account password for security purposes.
A warning will pop up, telling you that it will take time for your download to complete. You will also need to verify your identity again for security purposes.
Facebook will send you an email to the address you’ve associated with your account once the download is complete.
Then, prepare yourselves. You might find some completely horrifying things – but that part’s on you. We’ve helped as much as we could.