One thing the current Facebook data scandal has taught us is that all those likes, pokes, comments, messages and every other interactions we've ever done has been stored on the social networking site.
It's not that Facebook is by its lonesome in seizing every opportunity to track its users. Many other apps, including Instagram (which Facebook owns) and teen-favorite Snapchat, are using similar technology.
I downloaded my Facebook dossier — this is what I found
The curtain is being pulled back a bit on just how much info Facebook is collecting on us all. A bombshell report in Buzzfeed this week says that the Menlo Park, California-based company subscribes to a growth-at-all-costs philosophy.
But what exactly is the kind of information that Facebook hoards about us? I recently downloaded my Facebook archive and the results were revealing, to say the least.
This is what Facebook knows about us all
In my case, five files were included in my zip folder. Some users may see more. By going through the files, I was able to see exactly what information Facebook gathered about me.
Once I clicked the HTML file, it showed me a list of everything from ads that I was shown or clicked on to friends and events I’ve engaged with. All my videos were there (with comments) as were my friends, messages I’d sent and received as well as mundane interactions.
Not only did it have a history of the ads I was exposed to, but it even told me which advertisers had my personal information.
Once you go through that trove of data, you’ll see that Facebook knows a scary amount of stuff about you. But what are they doing with that data? One thing is that they’re showing it to advertisers so that they can sell you stuff.
If you log onto your own account and click on facebook.com/ads/preferences, you'll see a grid showing your advertising dossier — what companies you've interacted with and what your interests are.
Much of this information is what you “liked” on Facebook, but a large part of it may even be other apps that required you to log in via Facebook for access.
Facebook is a great social networking tool to stay in touch with the people we care about. But like anything, it can be a double-edged sword. Going forward, it's going to have to figure out how to best serve the privacy needs of its users, or else the movement to deactivate it will likely continue.