I have been reading a lot of paranoid articles about Facebook’s intrusion into our privacy so I decided that I would see exactly what they had on me. Following simple instructions I was able to download everything that Facebook knows about me, all my posts and messages, all the photos and videos that I had posted and also see what advertisers know about me.
It is all pretty boring.
There were no real surprises. It was kind of nice to be able to have all my facebook photos in a file or see every post that I had made since I signed up in 2009. If nothing else, it allowed me to have a copy of all these photos just in case Facebook folds or somehow my file gets closed.
What about advertisers? Well there is a list of ads that I have clicked on to view more. No surprises there as they obviously had some item that actually interested me – or that I may have even bought online.
And there was a long list of items that I was supposedly interested in so advertisers could aim their merchandise at me. But this seemed bland and innocuous and even had a few weird things like skunks and rings of Saturn and Catholic Schools in the mix. Go ahead, advertisers and send me things about skunks. What do I care? The only advertiser that has my contact info is Airbnb and it is one that I use. They have my information elsewhere as well.
I was surprised to see a list of many of my
“friends” phone numbers in a file. Not all of them but many. Not sure where that came from. But it gives me a good phone directory for friends! I can also see a list of friends that I have “removed”. But don’t worry, I can’t see if you have removed me!
The bottom line is that Facebook seems not to know anything about me that I have not been open about in my posts or interested in following up on by clicking on a link or “Liking” it.
I came away from this exercise thinking that there was nothing there that I had not posted myself and that the advertisers knew nothing about me that I had not openly declared. Basically I have not posted anything that I consider to be “private” so what Facebook knows about me is what I have chosen to reveal. I think that is the key. Whatever you post is public and will remain. So taking some care not to post anything that you don’t want to persist in cyberspace is probably the best strategy.
I also have to be aware that what is showing up on my news feed is selected by Facebook and geared to what I have posted or liked in the past. So it is not an unbiased reporting of events or opinion. Suffice to say that I have not seen any pro-Trump posts.
Actually what bugs me more is those Facebook “friends” who lurk and are entertained by reading my posts and but are not open enough to share anything themselves or even post a “like” or a comment from time to time. Facebook is a social medium. To me, Social means interactive. If someone is not willing to share anything about themselves, but is happy to read all about someone else’s life events and opinions, perhaps Facebook is not the medium for them. Or perhaps they might eventually find themselves on my “removed” list.
Should I cancel my Facebook page because of privacy concerns? If this is all they know about me then I see no need. Do I wish I could spend a bit less time checking my Facebook feed? Yes. But that is not their fault but my being hooked on this 21st century communication with online friends.