In light of the current revelations, surprising or not, of Facebook’s data mining and acquisition programs, I decided I would see just how much the big blue F knew about me. Now, I am fully aware of social media, big data, and its purpose. I will even admit having used big data acquired through app use in previous marketing roles for both targeting and customer profile building. I have worked in and with social media long enough to know that free access to apps and websites come with a trade-off of privacy, but at the same time have been fairly guarded in what I share online. Others, as we all know, have not been as self-censoring.
That all being said, the new revelations of the call and text scraping and deeper-than-comfortable analytics used by various political platforms has left me curious to the full impact of the data I have both shared and the puzzle pieces the company has put together through their tracking and scraping. So I have downloaded my Facebook data and am going to break it down for you all here. I am going to break it into three different categories: the expected, unexpected, and oh shit. Their purposes should be self-explanatory.
- To download a copy of your Facebook data, check out your settings: https://www.facebook.com/settings.
- To prevent Facebook from tracking you outside your computer usage, I recommend Disconnect Facebook for Chrome.
Breakdown of the Process
From request to assembly, it took 10 minutes for Facebook to deliver the e-mail with the relevant link to actually download the ZIP file. The file itself is 802mb. The zip file opens up a natively hosted webpage that you can navigate like a simple form of a Facebook profile, but with a lot more data.
Every single photo, post, idea, thought I ever shared. I do find it unnerving all the IPs I ever connected through are tracked, but that is expected. I did actually like the fact that I have a list of every cookie created from 2016 associated with my account; I now have a list of what to be sure to make sure is gone from all my devices.
Unnerving but expected, there is a record of all my chats. Yea…I read some of those old ones. That was like opening some journal I wrote as an angsty teenager thinking I could solve all the problems of the world. Never again.
I know that Facebook sells data, but some of their customers that have my info I have literally no connection to or past dealings. I’ve never interacted with the companies marked in red, but do understand the data is correlated based off their purchasing and targeting decisions. And with that, how many stupid best-of/promoting/self-fellatio crowdfunding pages do there really need to be? Twelve (in bold) of them bought my data.
Advertisers with your contact info
The Fillmore Silver Spring
Revention Music Center
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Walk Off The Earth
House of Blues New Orleans
Live Nation Concerts
The Fillmore Philadelphia
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The Fillmore Charlotte
The Majestic Ventura Theater
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Saint Andrew’s Hall
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House of Blues Dallas
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House of Blues San Diego
Viking River Cruises
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Tech Crowdfunding Videos
Amazing Design Crowdfunding Projects You Need To See
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Viking Ocean Cruises
(Official) Company of Thieves
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House of Blues Houston
Speaking of ads, it has a full list of all the ads I have clicked on Facebook and Instagram only from 2018. No idea why it’s only this year, but there are some real doozies in there that I’m even wondering why I clicked. Clearly in order to get me to click an ad, it’s got to be real stupid. That says more about my sense of humor than anything I think.
Oh, and this doozie.
Updated: Wednesday, December 31, 1969 at 5:00pm MST
The Internet and Facebook apparently is as old as my mom.
Under Contacts, there is a full list of everyone I have ever had in my contact book. I mean EVERYONE. There are names in there I have not seen or thought of in years, all being connected back to me. Names that have long been deleted from my contacts on every level. Everything from e-mail addresses to phone numbers, their place of employment, and even more data. And as my contact book is managed natively through Google, every e-mail address that has ever come in through my GMail, including e-mails I have sent, has been added to this list.
That’s 6,548 records uploaded through my phone to Facebook.
Lose your phone and need to find a number? Don’t worry – Facebook has it. Did I text you once? Facebook knows. And as is being pointed out – it does not matter if you’ve ever uploaded your number or not to Facebook; others have and Facebook knows and has correlated the data to you.
But it gets better. Under about 60% of the numbers, there is a string of code:
Oh…shit. Safely assuming that my Android is tracking this data inside my call log, it looks like Facebook has scraped the data and can track who I am communicating with the most, and who I send to voicemail. Are you my favorite? Facebook knows.
Well, let me come out and say it.
To every single person in my phonebook and e-mail, I am sorry I breached your trust and acted as a gateway for Facebook to gather your data. That is on me as it should be on all of us, something I never gave two thoughts about, and we are all seeing the consequences of the collective’s actions.
From a personal note, I have installed a plugin that blocks all of Facebook’s tracking pixels and other programs from gathering more data. I have also uninstalled the feed app from my phone. I have kept Messenger Lite, but have limited permissions since installing it. I am also going through and manually deleting a lot of outdated data; there is no need for me to have posts up from 2006 or even 2012.
From FactoryTwoFour’s point, we are shutting down our Facebook application and removing any plugins and code from the website that has tracking codes related to Facebook and other websites. We will still maintain a plugin for auto-publishing from our console, but the connections it shares is that of content and not user data tracking. We will audit this further to ensure, and if changes need to be made, they will be made. We will still continue to use Google Analytics for tracking of our web traffic internally, but none of this will be shared with outside applications. We are going to adopt a state of transparency, taking our reader’s privacy into account for all future work and development of the website.
We cannot fix the damage done, but we can work to help prevent it for the future. We no longer want to be part of the problem.