How to download your Facebook profile data (with screenshots)

This post accompanies the previous post: How to switch off Facebook platform apps 

You may be interested to see what data Facebook has kept about your use of Facebook and interactions with other people. Instructions are below.

If you’re an Android phone user it seems that Facebook may have kept copies of information about who you’ve called and when, and even the text of … the texts. As an iPhone user I can’t be too reassured though because if I’ve texted friends of mine who have an Android phone with Facebook on it then I can probably assume that (a) data about me are embedded with theirs and (b) I can’t access it directly (perhaps I could do a Subject Access Request, though presumably my information is held overseas).

Facebook’s Data Policy wants you to: “Bear in mind that information that others have shared about you is not part of your account and will not be deleted when you delete your account.” (from “How can I manage or delete information about me?”).

I downloaded my own data the other day and didn’t actually find much in there that concerned me – possibly because I switched off Facebook Platform Applications years ago – beyond noting that Facebook has every single contacted uploaded to my phone before 2009. I’m now using a different phone and phone number and haven’t shared that with Facebook. I do use Facebook on my iPhone, but not through the app and only by logging in on Safari. This probably doesn’t do a great deal (beyond psychological) to protect my data as I do have WhatsApp on my phone (and it can access my contacts) and Facebook owns WhatsApp 😉

A) How to download your Facebook data (below)
B) How to switch off Facebook platform apps (previous blog post)

A) How to download your Facebook data

Facebook’s own instructions (much shorter than mine, which you might prefer!) and here’s what you might expect to see in your own download, depending on your settings.

  1. Log in to Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ on desktop / browser (don’t think you can do this on the phone app…?)
  2. Go to your Settings page: https://www.facebook.com/settings (or use the on-screen menu to get there, using that little white arrow to the right of the question mark, then click on Settings).
    Screenshot 2018-03-25 11.57.50.png
  3. At the bottom of the page click on “Download a copy’ of your Facebook data”, marked with a yellow box in the picture below.
    Screenshot 2018-03-25 12.01.11
  4. Click the green “Download Archive” button
    Screenshot 2018-03-25 12.04.21.png
  5. You’ll be asked to re-enter your password, do this and Submit
    Screenshot 2018-03-25 12.07.50
  6. You’ll be shown the file-download info box for your computer, mine’s a Mac and looks like thisScreenshot 2018-03-25 12.09.50
  7. Save the .zip file – it’ll likely default to being in your Downloaded files area but you may wish to move it into a particular location first before ‘unboxing’ it and seeing what’s in there.
  8. Unzip the (compressed) .zip file – on a Mac this appears to be an automatic thing using a built-in unzipping program. If your computer doesn’t unzip the file you may need to download a free unzipping utility program but here are Windows instructions on uncompressing .zip files.
  9. You’ll end up with a set of folders and an index.htm file.
    Screenshot 2018-03-25 12.18.11
    That index file will open up into your browser window (it is not ON the web, it is a local copy that only you can see, doing this has not published it anywhere – you’ll see file://Users or something like that where the ‘link’ or ‘URL’ would normally be). You can very easily interact with the information by clicking on the menu options on the left. Alternatively you can drill into each folder and open up individual pages.
    Screenshot 2018-03-25 12.23.50.png
  10. You can download a fresh copy of your data as often as you like
  11. Be careful about sharing the data within your download, as you ‘ll have other people’s info in there too, not just yours.
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How to switch off Facebook platform apps (stopping Fb sharing more data through others’ use of apps)

It’s entirely possible that this is unnecessary. Apparently Facebook blocked apps that your friends were using from accessing your data back in 2014 (I only discovered this last week) so doing this now may be pointless, but I did this a few years ago, as well as blocking apps individually, and here’s how you do it.

  1. Log in to Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ on desktop / browser (don’t think you can do this on the phone app…?)
  2. Go to your App Settings page: https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications (or use the on-screen menu to get there, using that little white arrow to the right of the question mark, then click on Settings, then Apps in the menu that will appear on the left).
    Screenshot 2018-03-25 11.57.50.png
  3. Click on each of the Edit buttons to change your settings to your preferences. As you can see from mine my preference is to switch things OFF.I have ‘Apps, Websites and Plug-ins’ disabled…
    Screenshot 2018-03-25 12.28.50
    I have ‘Apps, Websites and Plug-ins’ disabled – that’s the Platform Apps one, and when I click on ‘Edit’ here’s what my settings look like.
    Screenshot 2018-03-25 12.41.23For ‘Apps others use’ I would have previously unticked any option that might have been ticked, though to be honest this is probably superseded by having switched off the platform apps option anyway. But I am a bit ‘belts and braces’ when it comes to Facebook.
    Screenshot 2018-03-25 12.36.45.png

Who are you sharing your Facebook posts with?

 

Musical accompaniment is ‘She’ (live) by Alice Phoebe Lou – this is used as the end credit song for Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr story, about the inventor and film star, and was Oscar-shortlisted for Best Original Song.

For all its faults Facebook is pretty good at helping you to decide who can see the posts you put on your timeline and it lets you adjust your privacy settings easily.

Below are screenshots of the most common options –

 

 

On the left, the globe = public – anything you post to your timeline with this option means it’s available to everyone (whether or not they’re logged in to Facebook, it’s very public). The middle one that looks like two heads = friends and this will be visible to any of your friends. The gear icon on the right indicates the post has been shared with a restricted group of your friends, or some other custom setting.

Note that if you tag a friend (by writing @ theirname [without the space] in the post) then your friend’s friends will ALSO be able to see your post (the icon looks very similar to the friends one though).

To access and amend these options when writing your new post click on the grey option in the screenshot below. Mine says ‘Friends’ as that’s my default setting, yours might be different. When you click on it it will go blue and all the options will appear.

Screenshot 2018-03-17 12.56.47.png

There are lots of options to pick from – if you want to throw a surprise party for someone pick the ‘Friends except…’ to hide it from them, or you can choose the Custom option and select which friends will be able to see the post. You can also create preset groups here too.

 

 

You can check any previous post you’ve published to see what its options were.

Screenshot 2018-03-17 13.05.53

I think that once you change your posting settings for a single post then Facebook may tend to default to that option for your next post – so you may need to keep an active eye on things.

If you comment on someone else’s public post your comment is public (even if your own settings are pretty private). I don’t know if your comment would show up in a search though.

Further reading
Block quiz / test apps from accessing your Facebook information

• Block quiz / test apps from accessing your Facebook information

AKA How to Switch of Facebook’s Platform Apps / Applications (see Supplemental).

Here’s what I posted on Facebook recently –

Your friends are the weakest link, mine too

Every time I spot that you’ve taken some test on Facebook and shared your results here I block the app that you used. This is because, when you authorise the app to interact with your page, it is then able to interact with mine* (and can, I assume from the wording below, access non-public information). Which I’d rather it didn’t. Obviously I will miss some because Fb won’t show me everything.

How to block apps etc https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=blocking

*because you can see my page and the app can access what you can access

Screenshot 2017-11-16 00.56.06.png

If you scroll down that page there are several options for blocking or restricting various things. At the time of writing (Nov 2017) the list is

  • Restricted list
  • Block users
  • Block messages
  • Block app invites
  • Block event invitations
  • Block apps
  • Block pages

The last two are particularly useful for dodgy looking quizzes and tests. As far as I can tell when your friends take a test they authorise the app to access their page. Their page can access all your info, so my supposition is that the app can access all your info too. This is borne out in the format of the help text Facebook uses to clarify what happens when you block an app (in the picture above) – “Once you block an aapp, it can no longer contact you or get non-public information about you through Facebook.” Hmm, the ‘non-public information’ bit made me wonder, so I have blocked – over the years – over 260 of these apps I think, here is my full list.

It’s very simple to block, just start typing the name of the offending app and autofill options will appear (if not you’d need to visit the app’s page and see if you can work out who is behind it). If an app doesn’t show up in the Block Apps dialogue box try it in the Block Pages option lower down.

Of course once someone’s authorised an app it’s already (presumably) been able to harvest some of your info so you can request that individual app owners remove that data by contacting the developer directly. I have not done this, I probably should.. but…

Supplemental
I’ve realised that I’ve already switched off the Platform app setting on Facebook’s App Settings page. In the ‘Apps, Websites and Plug-ins’ panel on the left in the pic below mine says Disabled. For the ‘Apps others use’ panel on the right I’d previously unticked all the options so in fact this the subject of this post has probably never actually been a problem for me!

Screenshot 2017-12-20 16.17.09

Screenshot 2017-12-20 16.11.58

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further reading