Our assignment this week was to look at our Facebook data. I was interested to see what information Facebook has about me, because I haven’t been as active the past couple years. Also, ever since I learned about Facebook using algorithms, I stopped clicking, liking or commenting on posts because I didn’t want Facebook to know what I was interested in. The obvious downside of this was that I got really random things in my newsfeed, sometimes from people I hadn’t seen in forever and didn’t want to see information on (maybe this happens anyways).
Facebook has its user data split up into two categories: Your Information and Information About You. There are many subcategories with a lot of uninteresting information (418 MB of it to be exact), but here are some of the more interesting things I found:
Photos and posts: There weren’t many surprises here, but it was fun to look back on my earliest posts. It looks like I joined in late 2006. Looking at these early posts and photos I was reminded of how Facebook was used very differently in the beginning. Since we were in high school, we used it more of a way to send messages between friends. This is more endearing to me than embarrassing – I love seeing the early uses of technologies as people are figuring them out (YouTube and Twitter have incredible early content). It seems so odd now to send this kind of message publicly:
Pokes: This used to be a big thing and a way to flirt with people. Also such an odd concept! I looked at the pokes and realized I never poked two people back 6 years ago! One was an ex and the other was someone I used to carpool with in high school. I felt tempted to poke them back just to close the loop.
There wasn’t too much other interesting information under the “Your Information” section here I was interested in since I’m not super active on Facebook (I don’t have a lot of pages or groups for example). I wish they would make it easier to see trends over time, such as number of posts per month. If I had time I would download the data and do this myself!
Information About You
Ads: Here you can see information about how they’ve categorized you and your interests for the purpose of advertising under section such as Business and industry, news and entertainment, hobbies and activities, shopping and fashion and more. Some of my ad cateogries made sense (“Runner’s World”, “The Economist”), but some were odd (two were related to “Dyeing” and “Dye”?? and “Ford Explorer” under Hobbies). There weren’t as many as I thought – perhaps because I try not to click on ads? I sort of feel like I succeeded in hiding my true self from facebook!
I tried to get the list of advertisers who uploaded information on me to load, but it never did!
I also learned that the ads are based off of the information you import into your profile, which makes sense, but I didn’t originally upload this information knowing it would be sent to advertisers. From this Facebook have also inferred categories about me such as:
“away from hometown”
“away from family”
“close friends of those who live abroad”
“US politics (very liberal)”
This is only a step away from the information I entered into my profile (it’s easy to infer that I am away from my hometown when I say I’m from Seattle but live in New York), but it feels so much more descriptive and deliberate.
I also learned that you can choose to hide certain types of adds such as ads about alcohol!
Calls and Messages: I realized that Facebook has all of my contacts, but luckily none of my call logs or messages. I’m going to find a way to delete all of my contacts after I finish with this blog post.
Location: I entered my password to get to this section and found out my location history is off (thank goodness!!)
Overall, the data I have on Facebook was similar to what I expected based on the way I use it and the privacy settings I have set in the past.