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Facebook has a tonne of data on you and your friends.

With the recent revelations that third-party companies, like Cambridge Analytica, were allegedly using data harvested from their Facebook apps to, among other things, sway political opinion, people are starting to look more closely at what data Facebook actually stores about them. People are also realising what that all means, in a big-picture sense. If you zoom out, all your data points can essentially be connected together.

Apps with full access to your information can, in a sense, create a digital twin of your life. With permission, they can see when you’re online, what you do online, where you’re going, who you call or chat or text with, and if you add up all those data points over the course of a decade, it can be really easy for them to predict your behavior, including, for instance, what you’ll likely be doing, say, next Tuesday at 10:13am.

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As a result, many have taken to the drastic suggestion of deleting their account on the social network, but before you do the same, it’s worth seeing what data Facebook itself has collected on you over the years since you’ve been using the service. You can access your data archive via the settings panel in Facebook, and once you do, you might be a little surprised at just exactly how much data you’ve been giving away.

Here’s what you need to know.


How to access your Facebook archive
Facebook lets you download a compressed archive that contains all of your memories and other information related to your account. You can keep everything from videos to your check ins. You can even keep your facial recognition data. If anything, your archive reveals just how much data and personal information Facebook has on you, which, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is incredibly creepy and eye opening.

To download your information, follow these steps:

Go to your Settings menu on Facebook.
Go to the General section.
Click “Download a copy of your Facebook data” at the bottom.
Click “Start My Archive.”
You can learn more about this feature from here.

What kinds of data does Facebook store?
Facebook stores different categories of data for different time periods. You may not find all your data since you’ve joined Facebook, because it may have been deleted from its servers. You really need to download your personal archive to see exactly what kinds of data it has received and collected from you over time. But, in a nut shell, Facebook has kept a record of nearly everything you’ve ever done on the site.

How about contact information for everyone one of not only your present friends but also people you were once friends with in the past? It has that. Want to ring up that ex-partner? Go for it. What about that friend you fell out with? It’s likely got those details, too. In fact, any contact information they’ve provided Facebook and shared, perhaps without realising it, is yours now to do with as you will.

When a Pocket-lint editor downloaded her archive, she found an exact home address and multiple phone numbers and email addresses of one of her Pocket-lint co-workers – even though that co-worker didn’t currently allow that information to be public. She found similar information for several other friends as well, including friends she had long-since deleted. It’s not just about contact information though…

The site has recorded every little interaction you’ve ever done. The ads you’ve clicked on, the friend requests you’ve turned down, and even the events you’ve attended, declined, or ignored. You might even find photos you’ve once uploaded but later deleted.

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But in amongst the data are anomalies we also can’t account for: people’s phone numbers that are certain we’ve never been friends with, but whose settings have been perhaps left open to us because of their privacy settings. The amount of data presented is shocking.

It’s certainly cause for concern – more so if you are a heavy user of Facebook. We’ve even been told what advertisers have been given our contact information – again, all of which we’ve probably agreed to at some point, but not necessarily understanding exactly what was involved when answering that fun quiz. We are all aware that Facebook keeps this data, but it’s not until it’s staring at you and presenting you with a trove of information about yourself that the ramifications of just what the company knows about you punches you in the face.

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