Facebook knows what about me? Your data on Facebook

Exactly what data does Facebook have?

Does Facebook know you better than you know yourself?

First, watch this video from Ainara Tiefenthaler, Robin Stein, and Kevin Roose from the New York Times. It’s a quick view around 3 minutes.

Why is it important to know what data is out there?

I realized during Mark Zuckerberg’s that while Facebook has a lot of work ahead of them, users are not taking responsibility for their part in any of the current crisis. I’m not going to go into why you shouldn’t answer those online quizzes or take part in those “20 things you don’t know about me” posts, or even just don’t post about your first concert, first pet, etc. Just know that you shouldn’t. I’m sure I’ll have many of those blogs in the future.

For now, I’m just going to focus on what information they have now that you’ve been putting your information out into the online universe. If you’ve been to any of my in-person conversations about social media, you know that I’m a big pusher for public content. I will never take that opinion back. I will, however, say that being public does not mean to forget you still have to use your gut. If it feels like you’re sharing too much about yourself, reign it back. There is plenty of information you can share to come across as personable without encroaching on your privacy. This is also a lesson for another day.

Today’s discussion: what data is actually out there about me?

In yesterday’s blogs, while going through the settings, I showed you where you can download a copy of your data from Facebook. The link appears in a couple places, but the easiest way to find it is to go to settings which will open in the “general settings” tab. It’s right there at the bottom of the list. (See below)

How do I download my data from Facebook?

What am I looking at?

So you’ve downloaded the file. What’s in it? Well, first you have to find it. It is available rather quickly after setting the process in motion. Here are the easiest ways to access the report:

  1. Where do I find my Facebook data download?An email will come to the address associated with your account. It will include a zipped file for download.
  2. While using Facebook, an announcement will appear in your notifications (maybe even before the email)

Remember: Several times in this process you will need to enter your password, so if you don’t have it memorized, have it handy.

The Data

While it’s important to know that Facebook retains this information to make your user experience better and to make advertising more efficient, they DO NOT SELL THE DATA. If you came to this page without reading my last blog, please go back and learn about your ad settings. To repeat a confusing fact for consumers:

While Facebook uses your data to make ads more relevant to you, advertisers never receive your data. They tell Facebook who they think the ads should be shown to; a general overview. Facebook takes their request and shows the ads to the people they feel fit that demographic. They do not tell the advertisers who saw the ads. Your information remains with Facebook.

Now that you have downloaded the zipped file, use your unzipping program to extract the files. Need help?

Now that you’re in the file you should see file folders for HTML, Messages, Photos, Videos, and a file labeled index.htm. That “.htm” file will open the whole folder as a webpage so that you don’t need to sift through the data on your own. This is not a published website that you are looking at. It is the contents of the folder on your computer displayed in website format. However, this is all of the information that’s out there about you on Facebook anyway, so should be the least concerning part of this project.

Profile Tab

Here is an example:

What I found in my data download

I wasn’t surprised by most of this part of the report. Under previous relationships, my ex-boyfriend did not appear but I can assume that’s because I have him blocked? The person listed there did make me laugh. We must have had a joke sometime in the past and it lives on Facebook now!

If you scroll further down this page, (on your own data report) you will find the following information:

  • Screennames (other social media outlets)
  • Activities
  • Interests
  • Music
  • Books
  • Movies
  • Television
  • Other
  • Favorite Teams
  • Favorite Athletes
  • Games
  • Restaurants
  • Clothing
  • Websites
  • Inspirational People
  • Books to Read
  • Groups
  • Pages You Admin

If you are like me, this list just kept scrolling! If you don’t like many pages, your list will be considerably shorter.

What do we learn from this?

The information that I wasn’t surprised about is all public information. I’m not worried about that. If you are concerned, just go to your profile and mark those items “only me.” Or if you want your friends to have access, “friends only.”

The endless scroll is another story. These are all on the list because I’ve “liked” a page. We’re all guilty of it. A friend starts a business page or group and we “like” or “join group” because we want to be supportive. But let’s say they’ve started that page or group for knitting carpel tunnel awareness. (No, I don’t think that’s a thing.) You don’t knit and don’t have any ailments. All of a sudden though, you’re seeing deals on yarn or prescription medications for pain. Those can be tied back to liking that friend’s page or joining their group.

While it would take days, maybe weeks, to go back and “unlike” all of those pages and leave all of those groups, we should consider this moving forward. As you mindlessly “like” a page, think first to yourself, “Is this relevant to me?” Would seeing ads on a similar topic be distracting or offensive to you? Consider the ad correlation before clicking that button.

Contact Info

This tab is not for your contact info. This is a list of phone numbers and emails of everyone on your “friends” list. If you never use Facebook for advertising your business, you may wonder why this section would be important to advertisers. Below is a section of the ad set-up process:

How do ads target my friends?

In the “connections” section of the targeting, advertisers can choose to advertise to “Friends of people who like your page.”

How can I use this information for myself?

Facebook doesn’t allow you to directly download a .csv of your contact. But downloading data gives you this list. It’s a little more typing but this list can absolutely be a jumping off point for your online marketing! This is especially great if you are still building your list.

How many times have you bumped into an old friend in the supermarket or out on the town and they’ve asked what you’ve been doing lately? Here is a way to tell many people you already know what business you are in without being pushy. You give them the chance to stumble across your page and maybe even opt-in to your mailing list!


This one can suck you in so be careful! This section will show you every post, comment on a post, and response you’ve ever done. I was an early on-boarder to facebook so my download scrolls endlessly.

What do I do with this information?

If you’ve ever been told you should write a coffee table book based on your funny posts, here’s where you find your gold. Meghan, I’m still waiting for your book of “The Cat Lady” quotes!


What is in my photo section?What’s great about this feature is that if you’ve lost a photo on your desktop computer but know you posted it on Facebook, you can get it back. Photos can be accessed via this page we’ve been looking at, or you can go directly to the file folder in the data download and have copies of all of the images transferred to your computer.

What’s nice about looking at them on this .htm page we are looking at is that we can also see all of the comments which were made to every photo. And! They are still organized into folders which decreases your search a bit if you are looking for a particular photo.

Photos included here are albums you’ve created, posted to your timeline, shared from Instagram, profile & cover photos.

The folder from the download does have the photos in folders, but they are not labeled with anything you used to distinguish them on Facebook so they are a little harder to search through.


The videos (in the folders and on this page) are the same as the photos but have the added bonus of including any of the fun stuff that Facebook created for you such as Friendversaries and Year in Reviews.

action task

I suggest you scan this page to the bottom quickly, especially if you do Facebook Live. I noticed that a few of my videos had this message:

“We were unable to download this video. You may use the following download link, which is valid for 3 days:”

They were all from my live videos. If you want to make sure you have everything, look through your videos inside of three days from downloading.

What’s another reason I might care about the video section?

Katy Lance- "The gold is in your email list."Like the photos, the comments are included when you are looking at this data page. If you are creating content, as Katy Lance says, “The gold is in your email list!” And she said that because of the questions that come to you!

Every question you are asked you should consider content creation for the future! The same works here. Scroll through the videos, at a point when it’s not distracting from your other tasks, and see what questions were asked of you.

What is obvious to us as professionals won’t be to our clients. Take a moment to see what they are curious about and answer their questions!


I know this data awareness can be daunting. We’re about halfway through so I’m going to stop after this category and finish up in another blog tomorrow. Now, we’re wrapping it up with friends.

This is a total and complete list of everyone you have “friended” on Facebook.

I know who my friends are.

Well, sure, you think you do. But Facebook allows you to connect with several thousand people. If you ever want to do a cleanup, this may be the easiest way to start.

Pro Tip:

Another thing I learned from Katie Lance is to take the online offline. There are many ways to stand out in this digital world. One of the ways is to go old school. This list includes everyone’s birthday as long as their privacy isn’t set to private! A majority of people do share at least the month and year, which is all we need really! I mean, who doesn’t love the onslaught of emotions brought up by the hundreds of messages we receive on our birthday on Facebook?

The protip is to use this birthday and send an actual physical birthday card! That’s what I mean by going old school. Using the marketing that is being forgotten mixed with being genuine can go a long way to being remembered and is almost always appreciated! Use this information to create a birthday calendar.

I know a realtor who delivers a mini bundt cake from a bakery called “Nothing Bundt Cakes.” This isn’t a huge investment for people you genuinely consider to be leads or partners and definitely makes you memorable!

Please do check back in tomorrow for a walkthrough of the rest of your data! What’s the scariest part of this process been to you? Any questions?

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