Are You Concerned About The Latest Facebook Trouble?
If you’re following the news, you’ll know that Facebook is in deep water. What exactly happened? Back in 2014, Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British political consulting firm, which combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process, signed a data-sharing deal between SCL Elections and Global Science Research (GSR). Aleksandr Kogan, a University of Camrbidge professor created a quiz app that extracted data from users’ personality tests and shared the data with CA. According to Euronews (2018):
The firm then advertised the app on an Amazon web service and paid participants up to $5 to encourage take-up, but only US voters with a Facebook account were eligible to take part. Their responses were then paired with information taken from their social media profile, including their gender, age, relationship status, location and ‘likes’, to establish their personality traits and political views.
Over 300,000 Facebook users downloaded the app, which doesn’t seem like a big deal; however, because the app also extracted the same data on a Facebook user’s friends, it’s estimated that about 87 million Facebook users were affected by the “breach.”
Facebook originally denied that this was a data breach, stating that people knowingly provided their information to a third-party app and put most of the blame on Kogan for violating Facebook’s rules for sharing the data with CA.
What Information Does Facebook Keep About You? Let’s Find Out
So, what information is Facebook holding? A LOT. To find out, you can sign-on to your Facebook account and click the down-arrow on the top-right corner of your screen. Then go to Settings > General, and then click Download a copy of your Facebook data at the bottom. You’ll be asked to provide your password for the request and then one more time when the download is ready.
You’ll then download a zipped file containing your Facebook data. You’ll see different folders that contain a good amount of information.
What information can you see?
- html folder: This folder provides you with information about the ads you’ve clicked on, the advertisers you follow, and a list of advertisers that have uploaded a contact list with your information. Here, you’ll also see any applications you’ve installed that share information with Facebook. In addition, your contacts are stored here as well, displaying all the phone numbers of your friends and family. This folder also contains every single Facebook event you’ve created and been invited to as well as your attendance status. Remember all those “New Phone: Need Contacts” events you were invited to 8 years ago? Well, they’re all there. There is also a section for your friends, which displays every single friend you’ve made in chronological order, every friend request you’ve sent, and every friend request you’ve denied. What’s really creepy is how Facebook keeps a list of every person you’ve messaged on Facebook. If you click on their name, you’ll see the entire message conversation, even conversations from 10 years ago!!! Another thing worth mentioning is the security section, where you’ll see a list of all your account status changes (e.g., activated, deactivated, reactivated), current active sessions (e.g., timestamp, browser, IP address, location), and a list of all the IP addresses you ever used while logging into Facebook.
- Messages folder: This folder contains the audio, gifs, photos, videos, stickers, and HTML documents of all the Facebook messenger conversations Facebook has kept. You’ll be surprised at how far back these conversations go. I was seeing conversations I don’t even remember having. I’ve posted a screenshot of one of my less-revealing conversations with a friend of mine.
- Photos folder: This folder does not contain the photos you’ve shared during a Facebook Messenger conversation, but rather all the photos you’ve posted on your profile and/or onto other people’s profile. You’ll even see your facial recognition data here!
- Videos folder: Similar to the Photos folder, the Videos folder displays the videos you’ve uploaded to your Facebook profile and any videos you’ve posted on other people’s profile. The videos will be in MP4 format
- Index folder: This is the HTML document version of the Index folder. You’ll find all index information here in a more user-friendly interface.
So, the amount of information Facebook keeps on you seems overwhelming! Would you want a third party to obtain this kind of information about you? This is why Facebook is currently in a quagmire of legal and media attention surrounding the latest CA disclosures.
Haridas, S. (2018). How to Find Out Everything Facebook Knows About You. The Hacker News. Retrieved from https://thehackernews.com/2018/04/facebook-data-download.html
Kirk, J. (2018). Facebook Attempts to Explain Data Leak, Denies ‘Breach’
Political Data-Mining Firm Reportedly Obtained 50 Million Users’ Private Details. Information Security Media Group, Corp. Retrieved from https://www.bankinfosecurity.com/facebook-denies-breach-but-leaked-data-raises-concerns-a-10725
Nicholls, S. (2018). The Facebook data leak: What happened and what’s next. Euronews, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.euronews.com/2018/04/09/the-facebook-data-leak-what-happened-and-what-s-next