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.
Sadly, 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).