Facebook has been watching you for a long time. But you probably knew this, right? How else could a man worth an estimated $9.2 billion who owns a company worth $500 billion be making money on a site that doesn’t completely overwhelm the users with advertisements?… well there are probably a lot of ways they make money, but gathering information on you is the important one.
They collect information on what you say, do, your preferences, the pages you like, the games you play, etc., and sell all that information to basically the rest of the world. The good news is that you can access this information easily. The bad news is that this information exists.
They do this using “cookies”. From Facebook themselves:
Yes, the information collecting when you are on their site is perfectly reasonable. The part that gets a little crazy, but not all that crazy, is that even when you are offline, they are still tracking you. The obvious one is when you use Facebook to log in on other apps or websites, the not so obvious one is that that, through your friend’s apps that you don’t even have, they can gather information on you. The craziest part of it all though (if you didn’t bother to read the cookies pic above), is that even if you’ve never even had a Facebook page personally, if you go to the site to look at someone’s profile, then they are able to follow you thereafter.
It might be necessary to have a philosophical discussion about the free in free service.
The thing is, Facebook has never hidden this from their users. Sure, this information isn’t exactly laid out in bold, flashing letters when you sign up, but anyone with even a little bit of curiosity and access to the internet can find out about this–and god forbid, if you actually read the terms and conditions when you signed up, then you wouldn’t be reading this now.
But, as I said, you can request access from Facebook to the information they have gathered on you. Simply go to general setting, where you’ll see “Download a copy of your Facebook data.” I am attaching a screenshot because I’m helpful like that:
Click that little guy, put in your password and wait for an email.
The content you receive will vary, but will contain chat history, check-ins, financial transactions, phones numbers, political views, and a lot of other fun information. A writer at The Herald found screenshots of a banking transfer. I had a whole file titled Creep, which tracked how many times I looked at my ex girlfriends profile after we broke up. No, I made that last part up. Just a little humor in such a dark article. (The Herald thing is real, though). But it’s worth getting the information because…well I don’t really know if it’s worth it because the information is there whether you like it or not. Just kind of makes you feel icky.
Now that you are in-the-know though, you can take steps to prevent this from happening by going through your settings to restrict certain aspects of information collecting and being careful about where you log in. That being said, if you were to delete your account in horror, the information they already have from your ten years on Facebook is still going to be in their system. So… what can you do?
I miss myspace. Those guys were cool.
Cover Photo by Tim Bennett
Photo 1 by Juan Pablo Rodriguez