How I found out what Facebook knows about me

IF you’re a standard Facebook user then chances are the social media network possesses a wide range of your information based on how you use their services, including Instagram and Messenger.

The type of information they collect really depends on how you use their products. That information can then be used to assist Facebook in showing you relevant advertisements of products or services you might be interested in.

As a Facebook user since mid-2008 I was curious to see what information Facebook had collected around my user habits.

To find out I went to my Facebook settings and selected the ‘Your Facebook Information’ tab. From there I clicked on the option to download my information.

After about an hour I was emailed a link to a 5.95GB file of my profile information, including every comment, like, post, poke, photo and message I had made in the past 12 years.

It was a neat little package chronicling my mid-teens to early twenties.

You can choose to download this file to keep or you can follow a link in your settings called ‘access your information’.


It was interesting to see Facebook had noted that based on my peers who also use their platform, I belong in the ‘starting adult life’ category.

Something about reading this label made me feel as if I was a subject of some bizarre scientific observation.

Supplied Editorial FACEBOOK DATA
Supplied Editorial FACEBOOK DATA

What I was most interested in finding out was how Facebook uses the information it has collected about me to help companies target me with their advertising.

This information had been categorised into four headings: Ads interest; Advertisers who’ve uploaded a contact list with my information; My off-Facebook activity; and Advertisers I’ve interacted with.

A quick look through the first category shows me Facebook has determined I have a wide-variety of interests, from crosswords and breaking news to pizza and wine.

Weirdly, I’m apparently also into pick-up trucks and survival skills. Who knew?

This information influences the ads I see in my newsfeed.

From there I looked at the advertisers who uploaded contact lists containing my information. Companies like Rebel Sport, Pillow Talk, Dymocks Books, Uber and Netflix.

The social media platform states ‘Facebook only uses these lists to match the information to your profile and to deliver the ads chosen by the advertiser.’

My off-Facebook information revealed what businesses and organisations share with Facebook about my interactions with them.

Off-Facebook activity.
Off-Facebook activity.

More than 400 apps and websites have shared my activity with Facebook, including My Fitness Pal, Spotify, Uber Eats and even several news sites.

Facebook had also linked me to a number of different categories.

It noted that I had lived away from family and my hometown, that I am friends with newly engaged couples, that I am friends with people who have a birthday in the coming week and what type of phone I own.

Now, if you’re not really a fan of the idea of this kind of information of yours being collected and used, there are things you can do to manage how Facebook manages your future interactions and activities in your settings.

If you’ve got some time to kill, it’s definitely worth taking a look through your own Facebook data, even if it is to just walk down memory lane and relive some of your status regrets and hidden tagged photos.

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