Facebook is stalking me. They are recording almost every move I make. They know where I go. They know what I buy. It’s almost like they know what I think.
People have pointed out that this is a silly thing to say. It isn’t just me they are tracking, it’s everyone.
I really don’t understand why THAT makes any difference. I’m completely aware that social media companies compile what I like, where I go and what I buy, and offers that up as a smorgasbord to advertising and media companies. I’m not paranoid. I just know what price I pay to engage in social media.
So when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, I already had one foot out the door of Mark Zuckerberg’s playpen. I also decided to do a little research into just what they had on me.
By the way, this doesn’t take special tech skills to do. Facebook is at least transparent enough that they provide a handy link so that everyone can do this.
Go to Settings and click on Request Your Archive.
It might take a while. Facebook needs to compile this information and will send it to you in a downloadable format.
I’m not a Facebook addict and don’t post often, but I’ve been on Facebook for 10 years. It was 15 minutes before I received my data.
Seeing that data they have on you is very enlightening about social media. It’s also rather terrifying when you realize that Google, Twitter and most other social media companies are involved in the same activities.
When you do get your Facebook data, it contains a huge number of files, which include: ads, apps, contact info, events, friends, messages, photos and videos, to name a few. I won’t go through all of them, but here are the ones that got my attention.
Facebook doesn’t provide you any explanation of what this means, but it seems pretty clear: this is what Facebook thinks you’d like to see. My list includes, to name just a few: business, futurism, New Order and the Republican Party.
That last bit stands out like a dead cockroach on a kitchen floor. I’m a Democrat and long-time active supporter.
They didn’t make the list but the GOP did?
It makes you question just how Facebook decides what ads you get to see.
The bigger question is: is this a list of who Facebook thinks will pay to advertise to me?
Nothing much here to worry about either, or if there is, it’s my fault. This is a list of every app I’ve installed on Facebook.
Most I recognize, like the The Boston Globe, Souq, Bloomberg. And then there is also “Wittybunny.”
I don’t remember installing Wittybunny, although I’m sure I did. Wittybunny makes quizzes. Most of us have taken a quiz on Facebook at some point, usually something along the lines of “Which Harry Potter character are you?” It’s fun.
But I know nothing about Wittybunny, and despite a quick search online, I can’t find much either. I do find out that by authorizing their app on Facebook, they gained access to my pictures, friends’ names and basic information.
They say they will also save that information.
I find their home page, but it gives a sample of the quizzes they offer. Quizzes include: What Is Your DNA Ancestry and Which Friends Character Are You?
If those questions don’t sound suspicious to you, they should.
Those questions seem innocent, but could give companies insight into your social groups, age and interests.
Are you white and over the age of 40? Then maybe you are an ideal candidate for ads from the Republican Party.
What this comes down to is: I don’t know anything about WittyBunny. That’s a problem. I don’t know what they do.
I don’t know what data they have on me or what insights I may have provided them. Did they sell that information? If so, to whom?
Facebook has banned that activity, but violating that information is not a criminal offense.
Facebook has the name and phone number of everyone on my contacts list. There are hundreds of names, numbers and emails. I transferred this data to a Word document. It’s 134 pages long. Sorry, everyone. I should have known better.
Every event I’ve looked at over the past few years is here: reunions, birthday parties, concerts. Facebook knows where I party, where I hang out and even what time the party starts.
“Dinner in support of Bill Harrison for Fremont Mayor – hosted by Dr. Dharam & Vijay Salwan.”
Bill’s an old friend who was the mayor of my home town. I haven’t seen him since high school and he lives 8,000 miles away.
Facebook recorded that I checked-out his event. It makes you wonder if there is anything they won’t record.
If there was ever a section that will convince you to delete Facebook, this is it. Every conversation I’ve ever had on Facebook, now dated and timestamped. Every. Single. One.
It comes in a huge file.
One conversation, with someone I only chat with a couple times a year, was over 28 pages long.
Every photo I’ve posted. Some of which I wish I hadn’t.
Every video, too.
At this point, I had to ask myself this question: do I remain on Facebook or leave? If I choose to stay, there are steps I can take to better control who sees my data.
The first thing to do is get control of those apps. You can control what access your Apps have by going to Settings and looking for the Apps’ link in the left-hand column. I had over 100 apps. Each app has several permissions that need to be managed, although there is the option to delete the whole thing. It’s time consuming and frustrating. I end up deleting everything.
Facebook also offers several other options to help you manage your data, one of which is to deactivate your account. Facebook is OK with this. Deactivation means your data is still available to advertisers, and if you come back, they can pick up where you left off.
Deactivation is not deletion.
You can delete your account – and presumable your data - but Facebook doesn’t like this at all. They don’t want you to go. Serving up your data to advertisers is how they make their money, and they don’t want you taking yourself off the menu. Even if you finally delete your account, it won’t happen instantaneously– they require a 14 days’ grace period, presumably in the hopes that you’ll think twice and come back.
Also, if you delete your account in anger without cleaning house first, your data will still be available. You have to manually revoke their access before you go. This is Facebook’s stated policy.
As a friend of mine, who used to work in the tech industry, pointed out, even then you can’t be sure the data is gone. There is no way of knowing that Facebook hasn’t stored it away. Sure, it might be illegal to do that, but how will you ever know? At least one company we know about, Cambridge Analytica, lied about deleting data. That’s why I finally decided to delete Facebook, after taking the steps mentioned above.
I don’t mind that there is data about me on the internet. When it works to my advantage, that’s great. But when I don’t know who has it or if – in the case of Cambridge Analytica – it’s being used against me, it’s time to go.