Who knows what you like?
Who knows who you know?
Who knows what news articles you read?
Who knows how many Android apps you opened in the past three years?
When Facebook announced that users could download all the data about them, New York Times Tech reporter BRIAN X. CHEN downloaded his and reported:
I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes.
By BRIAN X. CHEN April 11, 2018
“With a few clicks, I learned that about 500 advertisers — many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronica band — had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number and full name.”
“Most basic information, like my birthday, could not be deleted. More important, the pieces of data that I found objectionable, like the record of people I had unfriended, could not be removed from Facebook, either.”
“’They don’t delete anything, and that’s a general policy,’ said Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of DuckDuckGo, which offers internet privacy tools.”
“For my personal email account alone, Google’s archive of my data measured eight gigabytes, enough to hold about 2,000 hours of music. By comparison, my Facebook data was about 650 megabytes, the equivalent of about 160 hours of music.”
So where does the data come from? A data-broker called Acxiom, https://www.acxiom.com.
From the New York Times article,, Mapping, and sharing, the Consumer Genome, by NATASHA SINGER JUNE 16, 2012.
“Few consumers have ever heard of Acxiom. But analysts say it has amassed the world’s largest commercial database on consumers — and that it wants to know much, much more. Its servers process more than 50 trillion data ‘transactions’ a year.”
And from Acxiom:
“Personicx is Acxiom’s household-level consumer segmentation marketing product that groups U.S. households into one of 70 segments based on demographic characteristics. These 70 clusters are organized into 21 distinct life stage groups made of up households that have reached similar life events…”
The article provided links to getting Facebook and Google. I downloaded my Facebook data and got a Zip file that opens into four folders: html, messages, photos, and index. Under html, Ads, Aps, Contacts, Events, messages, photos, pokes, security, timeline, and videos. Ads showed a long list of companies and services, some I had no idea about. Security showed every time I opened Chrome or Facebook, and the others are as named. In the Messages folder is a list of names of those I contacted. I’m sure there is more, though. Photos showed the ones I put on Facebook but also some from my Animal Pictures folder on my hard drive.
Index provided a break from the dull data. My profile was actually funny on account of misinformation and had solid laugher. The address given wasn’t an apartment but a post office box I gave up seven years and change ago. I had rummaged around various supernatural sites for amusement and possibly writing in that genre, so under “Activities” only Nigromancy. What? I simply do not summon the dead! I hadn’t put a birthdate so Facebook made one for me, taking eighteen years off my actual age, and the best in show here is under “Family.” Only one name, a woman on my friend’s list whom I lived with in the mid-seventies is listed as my sister!
Google is much larger and more complicated. The whole download took 587 megs and nearly five hours and broke into twenty-four folders. The Drive folder shows me all the text that happened on my Chromebook since April 3rd 2017, including my poems, blog posts, lists of magazines, submission records and so on. The folder structure was identical, and the poems, etc. are as accessible as on the hard drive.
However, “accessible” doesn’t apply to other of the twenty-four folders opened from the Zip drive. “Bookmarks” gave me a link to an html page, but instead of bookmarks a Google Map picture of my house and a note that I lasted visited nine months ago. Items in some folders open only as code without a view option, while other with the option lists dates and times of whatever but no specifics. I watched more videos than listed, and several I never heard of. My searches are listed by month but in JASON, so unreadable to me.
How accurate? Items under “News” stops at October 17, 2017. Given the mistakes, I wonder if the software involved does more of the decision-making than the humans who run it.
And private, finally? Well, private to me because I can’t read JSON files.
For your Facebook data: https://www.facebook.com/help/131112897028467
For Google: https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout