Today offered a vivid reminder that social networks are (also) surveillance machines, as SnapChat published heatmap of students participating in National Walkout Day. And, in general, as we’ve come to know over the past two years, the information ecosystem created by social networks is pretty poisonous. Amy Collier reminds us today that even Pinterest can be a powerful vector for disinformation.
We’ve posted before about ways to understand better what’s going on with your social media accounts. For example, Lee highlighted a ProPublica report on just this topic a couple of years ago, and eight years ago Mark documented how to archive your Facebook data.
But this is an evergreen topic, and it’s back in the news thanks to a HackerNoon article by Georges Abi-Heila. Anyone can download their data (on a computer, not on mobile) in a pretty straightforward way. First, click on the little menu:
Then, click on Settings:
Then, at the bottom of the central panel, click “Download a copy of your Facebook data” (you’re not removing it–just getting a copy!):
It’ll make you log in, and then you wait a bit. It took the author of the article about 10 minutes to get the archive; it took me 22 minutes (yes, I timed it), even though my archive was smaller.
As Abi-Heila shows, Facebook does indeed have a record of everything you’ve done or clicked on its website since your account’s creation, including pointlessly detailed photo metadata and lots of information about every time you’ve accessed the site.
One of the most amusing parts of the datadump is discovering what advertisers have your contact information–some of mine I can only imagine have it because I made fun of them in a post somewhere. Anyway, it’s pretty interesting, and it’s human-readable (and certainly analyzable!) If you use Facebook, why not take a peek at what The Machine knows? In any case, Abi-Heila’s article is definitely worth a read!
Photo “camera | You’re being watched” by Flickr user Bill Smith / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0
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