Getting Facebook to Give You All Your Data is Easy (in Europe)


As Facebook moves to gather more and more data from its users, some people are getting rather anxious to know what Facebook really knows about them. Turns out, you can actually get Facebook to send you a CD with a PDF of all of your activities on the network – as long as you are in Europe. Europe vs. Facebook, a project started by Austrian privacy activist Mac Schrems, provides you with all the necessary steps to get access to your data. Requests for this data are routed through Facebook’s offices in Ireland, where a group of employees sifts through them, compiles these records and then sends them to the user.

data_request_facebookSadly, though, for many users, things are not quite as easy as just filling out this web form and waiting for the response. Not only do you need to know what law to cite in your request (something Facebook could easily figure out itself if it wanted to make things easy for its users), but as Schrems himself found out, even a meticulously prepared request doesn’t necessarily lead to an immediate response. As Germany news weekly Die Zeit reports, Facebook still didn’t want to give him his data. Only after an official complaint to the Irish data protection agency did the social network finally relent.

All Your Data Belongs to Us – Even the Deleted Kind…

Once Facebook sends the data over, it comes in the form of a CD with an unencrypted PDF document on it. Depending on your Facebook usage, that document can be between a few dozen and thousands of pages long (you canfind some examples here).

What’s in these documents? Mostly, it’s the kind of data you would expect (when you logged in, what’s in your “about me” section, credit card information if you use Facebook Credits, phone numbers, your likes and connections, what browser you used, location data, the messages you have sent and comments you have left, etc.). One interesting kink here is that quite a few users who requested this data also found some of their deleted posts in these documents.

How to Get Your Data

If you are in Europe, Schrems compiled a step-by-step guide for getting Facebook to give you your data. Just follow these instructions and be ready to respond to Facebook’s attempts to make you go away (chances are, says Schrem, Facebook will just tell you to log in to your account and see you data there – which, of course, doesn’t include all the metadata and deleted posts it also archives).


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6:41 pm

Facebook Announces Major Changes at F8: Here Are All the Announcements


Facebook kicked off its F8 developer conference with a large number of product announcements by the company’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives and developers today. Here is a rundown of all the major announcements.

New From Facebook: Timeline, Music Apps, Lightweight Status Updates

As Zuckerberg noted at the beginning of his keynote, the early years of social networking were about getting people signed up and connecting them. According to him, the next era of social network is about social apps and other products that these connections make possible. To do so, Facebook introduced new ways to share more lightweight updates and also announced a completely redesigned profile page today. Instead of just “linking” content, Facebook is shifting more towards sharing everything you do. Apps can now automatically share everything you do in them automatically to Facebook – assuming you allow them to do so.

Judging from today’s announcements, Facebook really, really wants you to share everything you do – and by making more and more of these updates automatic (like the songs you listen to on Spotify), it will soon be aggregating far more information about its users than ever before. It remains to be seen how its users will react to this.

  • Timeline: Timeline is, according to Zuckerberg, “the story of your life.” Timeline is basically a wider, more visual version of your old profile. It will give users access to all of their apps, stories and a better way to express “who you are.” Split into multiple columns, the timeline basically shows all of your updates in one place and on an endlessly scrolling page. Timeline will also be available for mobile devices. Timeline will be in beta for a while. Developers will get access today and everybody else can sign up for it today. Facebook hopes to roll it out to all users over the “next few weeks.”

    For Facebook, the timelines is all about giving people a way to tell “the story of their lives.” It’s somewhat similar to the old wall, but with a stronger focus on all the important things you did in the past. As you go back in time, Facebook will summarize more of your events, though it’s not quite clear how the company decides which events were really important to you in the past.More from Zuckerberg: “People feel an intense ownership over their profile. Millions of people have spent a ton of time telling the story of their life on their profile. Timeline is an important next step in telling the story of your life.”
  • Reports: instead of just showing you everything you have done, these new reports will summarize how you use apps over time (think reports for your RunKeep updates).
  • Next Version of OpenGraph and a New Class of Apps: “Connect to anything in any way you want.” With the new lightweight sharing feature, Facebook wants to give its users the ability to share more things without annoying their friends by putting all of these updates in their newsfeed. All your media, news and book updates from web and mobile apps will go into the recently launched ticker feature but not into the newsfeed. This new class of apps will also automatically share your updates to the ticker without prompting you to share things every time it does so.
    • Music/Movies: Facebook has partnered with a number of music and online video companies to allow users to listen to music and watch movies together on Facebook. Among these are Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, Rhapsody,, MOG and others. Thanks to the new lightweight updates, you can now see what your friends are watching or listening to right now.
      The fundamental shift  these updates really show best is the move from just “liking” things to participating in events together.
    • Social News Apps: besides these media companies, Facebook also partnered with publishers like the Guardian, digg, The Daily, Slate, TPM, Yahoo, Flipboard and others to allow their users to easily share everything they read in their respective Facebook apps. One interesting announcement here is that The Daily, which until now was an iPad-only publication, is bringing its app to Facebook.
    • Social Games: Unsurprisingly, Facebook game developers will also be able to hook into these lightweight updates that will automatically push content to the ticker.
    • Lifestyle Apps: Facebook worked with companies like AirBnB, Byliner, Color, Foodspotting and others to bring lifestyle updates to the ticker as well. This means you can now share every recipe you cooked from your favorite recipe app automatically to Facebook and then see everything you cooked in your Timeline and the new reports feature later on.[/list]

4:56 pm

Follow Me: Facebook Launches Subscribe Feature to Fight Off Google+ and Twitter


Facebook today announced a major new feature that could put renewed pressure on Google+ and Twitter to out-innovate the social networking market leader. Facebook users can now choose to allow others to asymmetrically follow them thanks to the new (and optional) “subscribe button”– just like on Twitter and Google+. This is an opt-in feature, so you may not see it on every Facebook profile. The fact that Facebook even decided to go into this direction, however, shows that it may be changing its views on how “relationships” on the service should work and that it took a closer look at the success that Twitter and Google+ are having with this model.

subscribe_to_scobleAfter all, many of us are more than happy to share some things publicly and there is no reason others would have to become our “friends” just to be able to easily follow these updates. Facebook obviously wants you to use this feature to follow journalists, celebrities and political figures – exactly the type of users who have taken to Twitter to post their updates because it’s easier for them to get followers there without the hassle of managing lists of friends or fan pages.

Facebook recommends that brands and businesses continue to use Facebook Pages to engage with their audiences. This makes sense, especially given that Pages comes with a number of tools – including stats – that users with personal profiles don’t have access to.

To turn this feature on, just click here and follow the instructions. It’s really just a one-click affair. Your friends who want to subscribe to your updates can then also choose if they want to see all of your updates, most of them or just the important ones (how Facebook then decides how to categorize your updates, I’m not sure about, to be honest).

Stemming the Tide

With its renewed focus on lists and now this subscribe feature, Facebook is clearly chasing Twitter and especially Google+. While it’s currently the market leader, the trend recently has been towards asymmetric following and away from the explicit “friends” model that Facebook imposed upon its users until today. Make no mistake, this may just look like a small feature, but it’s a major cultural shift for Facebook. This shift doesn’t just show that Facebook is worried about Google+ and Twitter, but it also shows that these competing networks are slowly changing the nature of what users expect from a social network.

6:10 pm

Anonymous’ Next Target: Facebook


Anonymous, the loose-knit organization of hackers and activists that grew out of the 4chan messageboard, has claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile hacks, defacements and denial of service attacks in the past. Among the groups’ targets were sites from major organizations like New Corp., Iranian government websites and the sites of the IMF. Now, according to a so-called “press release” by Anonymous, the organization’s next target is Facebook. On November 5, 2011 (Guy Fawkes Day), Facebook will become the target of the organization’s wrath and will, if everything goes according to plan, be unavailable for most users.

Why is Anonymous so Upset? Facebook is Selling Data to Governments

The statement itself, which was published about 3 weeks ago but mostly remained unnoticed until today, has a very paranoid feel to it. The author (or authors), for example, argue that Facebook is selling personal data to “government agencies and giving clandestine access to information security firms so that they can spy on people from all around the world. Some of these so-called whitehat infosec firms are working for authoritarian governments, such as those of Egypt and Syria.

Is Anonymous Able to Bring Facebook Down?

The problem with this “press release,” which as is so often the case with Anonymous, comes in the form of a YouTube video, is that it is obviously unclear who is behind this attempt. It could just be the work of a single person with no institutional support behind it. It’s not clear then, if Anonymous will really launch this attack – or if this is just an elaborate hoax.

Then, of course, there is also the simple question whether an organization like Anonymous could actually bring Facebook to its knees. After all, it’s not like Facebook doesn’t know how to handle a lot of traffic. A simple denial of service attack then, isn’t likely to be very effective.

You can read the full text of the release below:

[toggle state=”closed” title=”Click Here to Read Anonymous’ Full Press Release”]

Operation Facebook

DATE: November 5, 2011.
Twitter :
Irc.Anonops.Li #OpFaceBook

Attention citizens of the world,

We wish to get your attention, hoping you heed the warnings as follows:
Your medium of communication you all so dearly adore will be destroyed. If you are a willing hacktivist or a guy who just wants to protect the freedom of information then join the cause and kill facebook for the sake of your own privacy.

Facebook has been selling information to government agencies and giving clandestine access to information security firms so that they can spy on people from all around the world. Some of these so-called whitehat infosec firms are working for authoritarian governments, such as those of Egypt and Syria.

Everything you do on Facebook stays on Facebook regardless of your “privacy” settings, and deleting your account is impossible, even if you “delete” your account, all your personal info stays on Facebook and can be recovered at any time. Changing the privacy settings to make your Facebook account more “private” is also a delusion. Facebook knows more about you than your family.….

You cannot hide from the reality in which you, the people of the internet, live in. Facebook is the opposite of the Antisec cause. You are not safe from them nor from any government. One day you will look back on this and realise what we have done here is right, you will thank the rulers of the internet, we are not harming you but saving you.

The riots are underway. It is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It is a battle for choice and informed consent. It’s unfolding because people are being raped, tickled, molested, and confused into doing things where they don’t understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely false. It gives users the illusion of and hides the details away from them “for their own good” while they then make millions off of you. When a service is “free,” it really means they’re making money off of you and your information.

Think for a while and prepare for a day that will go down in history. November 5 2011, #opfacebook . Engaged.

This is our world now. We exist without nationality, without religious bias. We have the right to not be surveilled, not be stalked, and not be used for profit. We have the right to not live as slaves.

We are anonymous
We are legion
We do not forgive
We do not forget
Expect us


12:20 am

Facebook Launches Stand-Alone Messaging App for iOS and Android


Facebook just announced the launch of its new messaging app for Android and iOS devices.

Facebook has been working on new messaging services for a while now, starting with the announcement of its new and enhanced messaging system last November. Earlier this year, Facebook also bought the group messaging app Beluga and it looks like that acquisition is now starting to pay dividends. Today, Facebook announced Messenger, its own, Facebook-branded messaging app for iOS and Android.

According to Beluga’s co-founder and now Facebook employee Lucy Zhang, “messaging should be easy” and you shouldn’t have to think whether you should email or text a person. Instead, says Facebook, “you should be able to write a message, click “Send” and know that you will reach the person right away.” Messenger tries to approximate this goal by delivering notifications and texts to your friends through whatever means you are connected to them.

There is nothing highly exciting about the messaging app as such. It’s not available in the iTunes store yet, so I can’t review it in detail. Judging from Facebook’s screenshots, though, it’s a capable group messaging app with some interesting location-sharing features built-in.

Why a Stand-Alone App?

Why did Facebook decide to create this as a stand-alone app, though, and didn’t integrate it into its existing apps? Facebook’s Lucy Zhang says that it’s meant to simplify the process, as you just have to click once and can start messaging right away. This seems like a pretty good reason, but it would still be nice if Facebook also offered the same functionality within its flagship app as well.

7:23 pm

Report: Google’s +1 Buttons Gain Wider Distribution, Facebook Still Dominant


In some corners of the Internet, the battle between Google’s +1 buttons and Facebook’s and Twitter’s equivalent sharing tools has already been decided. According to Enterprise SEO company Brightedge, however, all of these tools still have a lot of room to grow when it comes to distribution on the top 10,000 websites. Google’s buttons are currently only in use on 4.5% of these sites, while Facebook’s Like button and box are being used by 10.8% and 6.1% of these sites respectively. (more…)

4:00 pm

Vibes: Facebook’s Upcoming Music Feature?


It’s long been rumored that Facebook is working on adding some kind of music product to its feature set. The details about this service remain murky, but enterprising developer Jeff Rose just discovered some interesting code in the application Facebook uses to distribute its new video chat plugin. In this code, he found a reference to an unannounced downloadable plugin called “Facebook Vibes.” While it’s not clear what exactly Vibes will do, the name and the fact that it will be a downloadable piece of software points toward a music locker experience that will be similar to Google Music or iTunes in the Cloud (assuming, of course, that “Vibes” is really a music product).

What Vibes Could Look Like

When it comes to music lockers, there are two basic ways of getting your music into the cloud. The Google Music and Amazon CloudPlayer approach is to make users upload every single song from their library to the cloud. This takes a long time, but has also allowed these companies to argue that they don’t need a license to host the files, as they basically just replicate a hard drive. In return, though, these apps don’t feature any real social component, as sharing songs would obviously necessitate some kind of license.

The code, courtesy of

Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud, on the other hand, doesn’t force you to upload all your songs. Thanks to having licensing agreements with all the major players, Apple can just look at what’s in your library and then replicate your catalog online (often by replacing your old, low bit rate MP3s with better quality files). Chances are, Facebook will go the same route as well, given that it would definitely want to add a social component to its software.

There have also been rumors that Facebook plans to partner with European music streaming service Spotify, which is about to launch in the U.S. soon. Spotify, conveniently, also has the ability to import your local music library. It still remains to be seen, though, if Facebook will actually partner with Spotify (or another music service) or if the company decides to start its own service.

Facebook’s Launch Season Just Started…

This, of course, is only speculation so far. Unless Facebook’s developers just put the code in there to taunt us, however, we’ll likely see Vibes sometime in the near future. At yesterday’s launch event with Skype, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that Facebook is now in its “launch season” for 2011. Maybe Vibes will be among the next features to launch?

3:46 pm

Hands-On With Facebook’s New Skype-Powered Video Calling Feature


During a press conference at its Silicon Valley headquarter today, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s new Skype-powered video chat feature. Thanks to this new feature, Facebook users can now easily start video chats directly from Facebook. To use it, Facebook users will have to install a small application on their desktop machines.

Easy Install, Great Video Quality

I just gave the new service a try and it’s clear that Facebook made the right choice by partnering with Skype. The video and audio quality is excellent and the chromeless window that pops up when you start a chat allows you to focus on the conversation. When you start a call, you’ll hear a ring and a box pops up on your Facebook page. It really couldn’t be much easier than that.

One nifty feature is that you can also leave video messages when your contact isn’t around to answer your call.

Facebook/Skype vs. Google Hangouts

schuler_skype_chatWe didn’t try group chats yet, but this is obviously a feature that also got a lot of attention when Google launched Google+ with Hangouts. Quite a few pundits argued that this was a killer feature for Google’s new social networking service. Google’s Hangout feature is slightly more impressive, but Facebook has clearly managed to steal some thunder from Google’s announcement (though both of these announcements were obviously in the works for months already).

Skype, of course, has been adding more Facebook functionality to its service over the last few months as well – up to the point where you can use Skype as a basic Facebook client

Zuckerberg also took some time to talk about Facebook’s guiding philosophy for the coming years. According to Zuckerberg, the driving factor for social networking in the coming years will not be about connecting the world anymore (because that has already happened for the most part, said Zuckerberg, though he also said that he hopes to get a billion people on Facebook “soon”), but “what cool stuff are you going to be able to build now that you have this kind of social infrastructure in place.”

5:42 pm

German Traffic Cops Use Facebook Profile Photos to Identify Speeders


There has been a lot of discussion around Facebook’s face recognition-based photo tagging feature lately, but putting your picture up on Facebook can have other unintended consequences as well. In two German states (Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia), police agents now regularly use Facebook to ensure that they’re sending traffic tickets that were generated by automated speed enforcement cameras to the right people. (more…)

5:57 pm

Facebook Launches Improved Commenting Plugin: Should Disqus and Co. be Scared?


Facebook today announced the launch of its improved Comments Box plugin. Among the highlights are improved moderation tools for publishers and a new algorithm that pushes comments from your friends and friends of friends, as well as the most liked and active comment threads to the top of the queue. While Facebook launched its first commenting plugin back in 2009, it never saw a huge spike in adoption so far, while other systems like Echo and Disqus have now become the de facto default choices for most publishers. Today’s update will likely bring more sites on board as publishers look to increase their reach on social networks.

It is important to note that the Comments Box will support authentication mechanisms besides Facebook itself. At launch, only Yahoo IDs are an option, but the company says it is working with other providers. As TechCrunch’s MG Siegler notes, though, rumor has it that Facebook scrapped the implementation of Twitter and Google authentication just before today’s launch. That’s a shame, given that the system’s utility is directly dependent on how easy it is for readers to comment on a story.

On the other hand, though, even without support for Twitter and Google, Facebook commenting is very powerful. Given its millions of users, Facebook not only makes it easy for people to log in (indeed, if you are logged in to Facebook you don’t have to log in again to comment on third-party sites), but as your comments can optionally appear in your Facebook wall, your comments are seen by more people. At the same time, the publisher’s reach also expands as comments are syndicated more widely. Uses will also receive Facebook notifications when others comment on their posts, making them more interactive, which in turn should drive more comments back to a publisher’s posts.

No Import?

Installing the Comments Box only takes a few clicks and mostly consists of copying and pasting a single line of code into your code. For publishers, though, that is only one part of the equation. One feature that is sorely missing here is the ability to import older comments. If you are currently using Disqus, for example, you can’t just easily switch over to Facebook’s commenting system without losing your current comments or running them side-by-side on older posts.

Not a Threat Just Yet – But It has Potential

For the time being, dedicated commenting systems like Disqus still have the upper hand, with easy migration tools and the ability to log in with a wider variety of credentials. In the long run, though, this improved Comments Box is another sign of Facebook extending its reach far beyond its own properties. For many publishers, the potential of a wider reach on Facebook and a deeper integration with the world’s most popular social network could outweigh the negatives. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Facebook’s commenting system pop up on more sites in the near future.

10:20 am