As I discussed in my last post, there is a lot of fervor right now about the security of Facebook data. Some folks are threatening to quit Facebook completely, while other (myself included) are just working to remind people that on Facebook, we are the product. In exchange for a free social media platform where we can share photos, connecting with friends and family, and watch cute videos of pandas playing in the snow, we give up our personal behavior data as our payment.
That doesn’t, however, mean that we have to give up our privacy entirely. Facebook does give us the ability to determine who sees our posts and, in most cases, apps that we interact with are required to ask our permission before they access our data. While it completely failed in the case in the Cambridge Analytica application permissions that allowed access to friends data, Facebook does do it’s best to try to give us a sense of security surrounding our data.
In light of that data being gathered improperly (and possibly illegally), it’s probably a good idea for each of you to take a moment and review how our data is being used. YES…while most people don’t know about this feature, Facebook does give you the opportunity to download a data file and review where your data is being used.
To help you download and review your data, here are the specific steps to request your Facebook data file, download it, and review it.
Requesting Your Facebook Data File
To request your Facebook data file:
- Go to https://facebook.com/settings
- Login to Facebook, if you aren’t logged in already
- Click the link that says “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”
- Click the link that says “Download Archive”
- Facebook will let you know that your data archive has been requested and that you will receive an email once the data file has been created
- Wait about 15 minutes and check the email address associated with your Facebook account.
- When the file is ready, you will receive a personalized link that allows you to download your data file
Reviewing Your Facebook Data File
To review your Facebook data file:
- Download the file from your link. It will come in a .zip format
- Open the .zip archive that you downloaded and extract all the contents to a location on your computerNOTE: It is important that you download the file and extract it. If you try to interact with it without extracting it, it might now behave how you need it to.
- Once extracted, locate the folder and click the “index.htm” file in the root directory. This file will open in your default browser and allow you to browse the data file
- Basically, what you have is a full download of your history on Facebook.
What Am I Looking For?
While it’s fun to review your posts, pokes, and photos, the most important piece of what you’re looking for from a security perspective is located in the “Ads” section. Click that section and you can see what types of information Facebook thinks it should target to you. The more topics you have liked and shared on Facebook, the more topics there are going to be.
Next, scroll down to the “Advertisers with your contact info” section. These are specific brands and organizations that have access to your Facebook data. In my case, it’s brands like Target, AT&T, eBay, and Uber. But…who is “Ahalogy Partners”?
After doing a quick Google, it turns out they are a blogger/influencer connection network. Makes sense…I do talk about blogging a lot and I probably checked this network out at some point, granting access to its app. Likely nothing nefarious here.
So What Do I Do?
If you find something you don’t like, the best thing to do is to determine if you can cut off access. Do your research on who they are. In the case of “Ahaolgy Partners” for me, I likely gave them permission by using the “Log in with Facebook” app on their site. So, I’ll login to their site and find the way to revoke that permission.
In some cases, it’s possible that you don’t have the ability to cut off that access.
I hope that helps some folks out there. Facebook definitely is at the center of some serious privacy concerns, but the more control you take over your privacy, the more you can minimize the risk associated with posting things on the social network. If you did all that hard work above, good for you. Here’s a reward of some cute pandas playing in the snow.
Have a tip or trick for exploring your data that is hosted on Facebook? Be sure to share them in a comment.