What Facebook Knows About Me

With the dust not yet settled over the Cambridge Analytica user privacy scandal, I decided it would be a good idea to look into what information Facebook has on me.

Getting a copy of my information was easy. I went to Settings where I saw “Download a copy of your data”.

I clicked on Download Archive, entered my Facebook password and then clicked on Submit.

facebookOnce the download completed, I received a Zip file containing data about ads (including advertisers with my contact info), installed applications, contacts, friends and security information (including a log of every IP address and browser that I logged in from). Much of this information I expected because I had entered it. But some of it just left me scratching my head such as the advertisers that have my contact information or the installed apps. For example, under installed apps is Retirement Journeys. I never created an app, but I did use a WordPress plug-in that creates an automatic interface between Facebook and Retirement Journeys. That must be it, right? Then there was an app for Meow Wolf which is a very cool place we visited in Santa Fe. But a Meow Wolf app? I followed them but I don’t recall installing an app.

It’s been awhile since I checked out my Facebook settings. I forgot how numerous and complex they are! It’d be easy to feel overwhelmed and just chuck it. But I’ve come this far so I’ll just wade through the various settings one at a time. I’ll take time to understand what each setting covers and what the repercussions are if I change a setting. Sometimes what looks like a good idea can have unintended consequences.

I’ve already deleted apps I don’t want. Next I’ll focus on ads. I hate the type of ads that follow me around. So I clicked “No” to the ad settings where Facebook asks if it can create ads based on the websites I visit. I might end up having a “less wonderful internet experience” which probably means I’ll see all sorts of lousy and even less relevant ads. But hey, I won’t know until I try. Maybe I’ll have “a better internet experience”.

I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable enough with Facebook where I trust them to protect my personal data. Supposedly Facebook is going to roll back some ad-targeting tools, inform users what apps they’re interacting with, make it easier to delete apps, clarify what data they have shared with apps and remove a feature that allows users to search for profiles based on phone numbers or emails. I’ll be watching to see what steps they take and their effect.

Even though I’m feeling uncomfortable and angry, I take comfort in one practice I follow. I do not enter extraneous personal data into any online profile.  The less they know about me, the better!

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