Or lack thereof. Since Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has recently had to answer some questions to Congress, one New York Times writer sought out answers of his own. Brian Chen, a self-described “sparse” user of Facebook downloaded a copy of his Facebook data and was shocked by the amount of his personal information was out there in the world.
About 500 advertisers had Chen’s contact information, not to mention Facebook also had a record of his entire phone book as well as a permanent record of all the “friends” he “unfriended” over the years. Since how Facebook collects and treats this type of sensitive information is in the forefront of the news, Chen sought out how and why his data was collected, and how, it at all, it could be removed. It seems the general policy of Facebook is to not delete anything, ever. The “index” file you can download on yourself includes a raw data set of your account of your profile, friends, messages, and more. Facebook keeps a record of dates, like the exact day you opened your account, and a timeline of how often you’ve opened the app. Some explanations, like using this log of data as a security measure, like when banks send fraud alerts for uncommon behavior, seemed reasonable. Others, like keeping deleted friends, seemed unnecessary. Aside from Facebook’s storage of Chen’s data, an unbelievable number of advertisers also seemed to have his information in their databases. While there are several ways brands can obtain your information and use it to re-target you on Facebook, it was still unnerving for Chen to discover how many companies he had never heard of, who knew many basic facts about his life.
Facebook is not the only company in Silicon Valley collecting and storing your data; Google archives your data, keeping a history of news article you’ve read or the record of apps you’ve opened on an Android cell phone. To learn more about your privacy, and how to view your own index file of data, visit here.