What does my world look like through the lens of Facebook?
I used the Facebook download tool to find out. The amount of data they’ve collected about me is impressive. It includes every status update I’ve ever made, every photo I’ve ever shared, every ad I’ve clicked on, every friend I’ve “friended” and “unfriended,” every device I’ve used to connect to Facebook, every word of every message. I’ve got to hand it to Facebook for thoroughness.
I am thankful that some of the photos and videos have been saved, somewhere. Anywhere. I had forgotten about some of them and to see them all in one place was fun. It was like re-visiting those moments in my life. I guess that’s what makes Facebook so sticky for so many.
Surprisingly, most of the ad topics that are archived are a reasonable compilation of brands that that I might be interested in. Well done, Facebook!
One head-scratcher is the number of advertisers who are listed in the “Advertisers who have uploaded a contact list with your info” file. As Brien Chen wrote recently in The New York Times: “…there was a section titled ‘Advertisers with your contact info,’ followed by a list of roughly 500 brands, the overwhelming majority of which I had never interacted with.” 1
For me, the puzzling list of the over 500 brands that now have my contact info include everything from Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations to Americans for Prosperity – (Nebraska, Illinois & Tennessee chapters) to Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. Even Tori Spelling has my contact info!
How do I feel about the privacy of my data? One of the things that worries me was outlined in another New York Times article that explained: “(Facebook) not only harvests the data you share with the platform, but also collects information about you from the files of other Facebook users you know.”2
Digging deeper into Facebook’s data policy I found this: “…we don’t share information that personally identifies you (information such as your name or email address that by itself can be used to contact you or identifies who you are) unless you give us permission.”3
The entire media industry is feeling the heat from Facebook’s privacy debacle. Many social media sites are rushing to announce new data policies and privacy protections. They are saying they want to be more “transparent” about what they do with our personal data. If they don’t act swiftly and convincingly, they may find the government getting involved.
Truthfully, I’m afraid that without an act of Congress to force social media sites to change, the public will continue to happily publish personal information for all to see—unwittingly making ourselves the product. And Facebook and their advertisers will continue to exploit us.
In the meantime, I’m waiting for Tori to contact me.
1Chen, B. (2018, April 11). I Downloaded the Information that Facebook Has on Me. Yikes. New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/technology/personaltech/i-downloaded-the-information-that-facebook-has-on-me-yikes.html
2Porter, E. (2018, April 17). Facebook is Creepy. And Valuable. Nytimes.com. Retrieved April 28, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/17/business/economy/facebook-regulation-privacy.html
3 Facebook Data Policy. (2018, April 19). Retrieved April 28, 2018, from https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/