How to Find out How Much Facebook Knows About You

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Follow these steps to find out how much data you’ve shared on Facebook and what actions you should take to safeguard your privacy on the platform.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is facing massive backlash right now and thousands have already deleted their Facebook accounts due to privacy concerns.

The fallout comes after recent reports confirmed that millions of users’ private information have been compromised.

A company named Cambridge Analytica, working alongside the Trump campaign reportedly used the data of more than 50 million Facebook users to attempt to sway voters during the time leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

So, is it time to delete your Facebook account completely or are there ways to protect your privacy by making changes to your account?

There are several ways to find how much information you’ve shared on Facebook. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you out.

The Big Data Download

Note that while many of the instructions provided in this guide can be done on your smartphone, consider using a full-screen desktop or laptop computer to make the process easier.

Also, keep in mind that the volume of backed up data downloaded from Facebook could be high. Make sure you have a stable internet connection that can handle it.

Start Downloading Your Data:

  • Click on the Settings page in your Facebook account.
  • Towards the end of the page, you will find the option to download all your data.

  • Click on the icon and the website will compile all your data.

  • Considering the fact that most users have been using the website for years, it should take a couple of minutes.
  • The data usually finishes compiling in about 10 minutes and it will redirect you to another page. Facebook will also send you an email with a temporary link to download the package.

  • In order to protect your privacy, Facebook will request your password once again before displaying your private data.

Opening Your Data File (Zip File)

  • Once the download is completed, note that it’s obviously going to be a huge file as it consists of all the data collected by Facebook throughout the entire time you’ve been using the site.
  • The file will be downloaded as a .Zip file to your desktop.
  • Open the file and unzip it to the desired folder.
  • Click on the file named “index.html” and it will open in your browser.

Find Your Friends’ Information

  • When you open the index.html file, you will come across a high volume of data.
  • Click on the tab called “Contact Info” and you will be able to view a large list of friends connected with your Facebook profile.
  • The list will also include the phone numbers of all the friends you have ever had on Facebook.
  • You can also manually browse through different aspects of the data to know how Facebook has been watching you all these years.

Learn More About Your Data

A simple Google Chrome extension built by ProPublica can also help you make sense of how Facebook uses your data.

  • The extension is capable of automatically finding all the categories in which Facebook has associated your account.
  • Facebook is also capable of creating sub-categories so that it is easier to promote targeted ads when you browse.

Modify Your Ad Preferences on Facebook

Every detail about you is collected in order to promote relevant ads and paid promotions to your attention. You can head to the appropriate page to know how the platform rates you.

  • Navigate to the ad preferences panel in your Facebook settings. (Consider visiting this page on a desktop, but it works on smartphones as well.)

  • You will find an option named “Interests” close to the top of the page.

  • Browse through the variety of tiles displayed here. These are subjects you are interested in according to Facebook.

Safeguarding Your Privacy

According to the details collected through the years, Facebook categorizes you based on dozens of interests. You may have searched for colleges five years ago and it will still be on the list.

  • Hover your mouse over any of the interest tiles and it will show an “X” icon on top of it.
  • If you find that you don’t belong to some of these categories, you can choose to remove it from the list.
  • By removing this preference, it’s easier to safeguard yourself against targeted ads and avoid spam messages from getting into your Facebook feed.

How to Find Advertisers Who Have Your Data

  • Once you are done removing all unwanted interests and their ads being displayed, it’s time to remove the advertisers.
  • Facebook often requests access to lots of information including profile details, location and sites that you visited.
  • You might have authorized multiple apps and advertisers to gain access to your sensitive data.
  • Scroll down below “Interests” and you will find the list of authorized advertisers who have your profile data.

  • You can choose to remove those who are not relevant or may sound like spam to safeguard yourself from losing your digital identity to outside parties.
  • Facebook confirms that when you choose to block advertisers, you will no longer see ads from them or anything from the organization that hosts these apps.

Steps to Find Out Why You’re Seeing Specific Ads

Facebook has recently made lots of changes to their ads and feeds in order to comply with privacy issues. However, there are times when you will still come across unwanted advertisements.

  • Head to the down arrow icon on the right side of an ad and click on it.

  • Keep scrolling until you see the option that says “Why am I seeing this?”

 

  • The website will display the information and why it thinks the particular ad should matter to you.

 

  • If you choose to hide those ads, you can stop seeing such content and focus on only what you want.

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The situation with Cambridge Analytica is concerning for Facebook users and the company has openly admitted that millions of users’ data have been compromised. They are taking steps to ensure enhanced privacy for users, but it is up to you to make sure you don’t share too much personal information online.

Being attentive to what you share is essential to avoid data leaks. And this is applicable to every social media website, not just Facebook.

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