Facebook’s ‘Secret’ File on You Is Bigger Than You Think — Here’s How to View It

in news •  last year

Facebook’s user data gathering prowess has been common knowledge for some time now, but one journalist’s impromptu experiment suggests it is even more ubiquitous and pervasive than previously believed. Nick Whigham, a reporter for the New Zealand Herald, decided to test out a feature on Facebook that allows users to download a ‘secret’ file showing how much personal history the company has gathered about them. What he discovered is that Facebook not only has disturbingly vast consumer profiles on all 1.4 billion daily users but also tracks the internet movement and personalities of people who don’t even log into the website.

A large part of Facebook’s business model is selling the information it collects about users to advertisers. It’s free to us because we’re the product. Its algorithms track your posts, likes, shares, and preferences, of course, but they also track your overall Internet activity — the websites you go to, your operating system, your IP address, and comments you happen to leave on random forums — via social media plugins and cookies on third-party websites. Even if you’re not logged into Facebook, your browsing behavior is tracked by secret trackers called Pixels, which are embedded on over 10,000 websites. Sorry, social media Luddites — even if you’ve never used Facebook, your online activity is tracked everytime you merely visit a website that contains Facebook ads and trackers.

Whigham downloaded his Facebook files and was stunned by the specificity of the information. The 500MB zip files contained 105 biometric facial recognition files, photo metadata that includes where and when the photo was taken, his entire iPhone contact list with names and numbers, old tenancy agreements, photo scans of broadband bills, bank transfer screenshots, and, naturally, the entire archive of his Messenger chat logs.

Whigham urges people to download their file so they can see the extent to which their privacy is being violated by what he calls “surveillance capitalism.”

How do its algorithms aggregate so much personal information? There are 98 data points Facebook uses to size you up, and some of them may stun you. They range from the square footage of your home to whether or not you’re an early adopter of technology. They also look for “users who are interested in the Olympics, fall football, cricket, or Ramadan.”

While much of the public seems to have become somewhat anesthetized to predatory data mining and privacy violations, legitimate legal challenges have finally begun to surface, and Facebook is finally facing some heat. Last month, a Belgian court ruled that the firm could not collect data on Internet users who do not have a Facebook account. Elsewhere, a federal judge recently dismissed Facebook’s motion to dismiss an Illinois class action lawsuit charging the company with violating constitutional privacy rights.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rodd Sims, whose organization is running a separate investigation into the privacy violations of multiple tech giants, including Facebook and Google, thinks it’s time for people to really consider the full ramifications of opting into services that harvest their personal information.

“Some people have asserted that consumers know what’s going on and don’t care,” Mr. Sims stated.

“I think it’s absolutely crucial we find out what consumers do know and then let’s see whether they care. My suspicion is Facebook and Google have much more personal information about people than people realise.”

To download your ‘secret’ Facebook file, click at the top right of Facebook’s navigation bar and select Settings. Then click “Download a copy of your Facebook data” beneath General Account Settings and click the green button. Then wait ten minutes and you should receive an email letting you know that “surveillance capitalism” is alive and well.

Happy hunting!

Written by @jakeofthefoliage

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo


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thanks for information bro.

Taking a lot longer than 10 minutes. They must have a boat-load of data on me. Or many others are downloading right now.


Same. Been more than half an hour now.
Soooo curious. Although I imagine a huge pile of just boring stuff.. :D

The folks at Facebook need to be criminally charged.


I agree. When I wrote the article, I didn't expect to get even angrier. I just wrote another op-ed about why Facebook must go. https://steemit.com/facebook/@jakeofthefoliage/why-it-s-time-for-facebook-to-die

I deleted fakebook 2 years ago and have never looked back...


If you would have read the article than you would know that you didn't delete anything :)


I read the article, i didnt just deactivate my facebook, i followed steps to delete, hence i canot log into to check the settings and download my secret file, sure they probly have my old account data somewhere, but it doesn't show up through any settings :)


That's what I meant, now they have access to your data but you don't, still updating your profile with new data they gather from you:)


It's not cool...but, their Orwellian cartel Will fall in time as they all do....in the mean time out of sight and out of mind is good enough for me


That's the spirit:)


As do our pockets and desktops ;)


Yes yes haha :) but the bright side is, steemit is here, facebook failed

Really great information nice post thanks for sharing sir.@antimedia


Glad you liked it. I also wrote this op-ed, which states my case more bluntly lol https://steemit.com/facebook/@jakeofthefoliage/why-it-s-time-for-facebook-to-die

Enough of these stories should get people to migrate to Steemit. I am going to check my file tomorrow when I get home. Facebook already knows when that is as I always get a message about the days weather as soon as I log in at home

Downloading now. I login to flakebook a couple of times a year. It will be interesting to see what information has been collected about me from other sources and stored there.

Thank you..Took a while but i got it. Its frightening what they have done with facebook etc.....

Thanks for sharing this. I am going to give it a try

Great post, very helpful to all. Thank you for sharing.

Yikes, this is kinda scary... Interesting read, alot to learn for your content, keep up the good work mate


@santaynik have a read of this

WOW! Followed and upvoted!

Marking this for later.


Just requested a copy of my info. I am REALLY curious what they will send me. Thank you for this hint.

When Facebook first rolled out and you had to have a .edu address to signup I had a Facebook account. I quickly realized that I don't really want all my business out there and stopped using it years and years ago.


Smart. The reality is I think this zip file is just the tip of the iceberg. They won't disclose that they're using webcams and phones to hot mic us for decades when a court forces them to.

Author's note: here's what I really think. No need to hold back. It's time for Facebook to bleed out. Here's why https://steemit.com/facebook/@jakeofthefoliage/why-it-s-time-for-facebook-to-die

Please visit my blog,Thank you!!!

Where in that download is anything about other websites I visit? I only saw information from facebook. It was kind of interesting to see when I unfriended people. I didn't see anything privacy violating. I didnt even see any record of the sites like discuss where you log on with your Facebook.

I do not know if folks here know of "Q" or the QAnnon posts,this supposed White House insider (many speculate as Military Intelligence) has just posted this message on the very subject (pardon the copy and paste, just thught it would fit):

Mar 07 2018 16:01:31
I confess. I was an #IBOR resister. It didn't make sense to me since free speech is already guaranteed in our constitution.

But, thinking logically, the one thing that would scare the data-mining cabal the most is an articulated right to privacy when using the internet.

No more data mining for ads. No more algorithms screwing up how we communicate with others on Facebook. No more capturing my favorite soda to sell to a competitor who might want to make me buy something else.

Also, and really important to me, is the right to be forgotten. It's already been adjudicated in Britain. Here's a bit of the detail:

https://www.theguardian. com/technology/2013/apr/04/britain-opt-out-right-to-be-forgotten-law

We should have a right to disappear.

So if this continues to be a thing, think of it way beyond being censored for free speech. Think of it in terms of privacy, too. No more selling personal information. No more dedicated IPs to track your every move. No more email apps that pre-select your possible replies, because no more email being mined.

Mail could be configured with the same privacy rights as US mail, for example.

Last I'll post on this one. But if it goes forward, please consider expanding the scope.

Also keep in mind that there's more than the WH petition site to make your ideas known. Most of us have senators and congressmen to represent us in Washington, D.C. Maybe talk to a real person?

I noticed a few times that my activity on the internet is being monitorized by Facebook. If I were to search for a vacation, a few minutes later on facebook I would receive an ad with that destination. Once I was chatting with my boyfriend in FB messenger about the new phone I got. Within minutes he received an ad about that phone. Isn't that a coincidence! More scarier than facebook watching us is people not aknowledging this and take action. I tried to talk with my colleagues and friends about this and they just shrug, saying that they have nothing to hide.

Nice post