Facebook and Cambridge Analytica came under fire last week after it was alleged that user data had been harvested and used to build profiles of said users.

Despite Facebook’s policies and promises to protect user data the allegations leveled against Cambridge Analytica showcase just how little control Facebook has over the data it allows third parties to access.

This is concerning because the sheer amount of data Facebook has on users could be enough to build a detailed profile of you.

To find out how much and what data Facebook has on you, head to Settings and under the General tab click Download a copy of your Facebook data.

The data should take a few minutes to compile at which point you will receive an email containing a link to download a zip file. Extract that zip file (7Zip is a great open-source alternative to WinRAR) and you’ll find three files and an index.html page. Open that html page and you can browse everything.

What Facebook has on you

When we say everything we mean everything. At the weekend I downloaded my own data and was shocked to discover that Facebook had a record of every call I made (and its duration) in 2015/2016 before I adjusted app permissions.

Number redacted for privacy reasons.

Users that used Facebook Messenger as their default text message service should find it unsurprising that Facebook has a record of all of those messages as well.

You can also check out your advertising profile once you’ve downloaded your data. Clicking on the Ads tab in the index page will reveal what sort of topics you might be interested, which adverts you have clicked on in the past and which advertisers have your contact information.

Change your permissions

There is a way to prevent Facebook from tracking your call and text message history and that’s by changing the app permissions.

Firstly, you should stop using Facebook Messenger as your default SMS app. To do this tap your profile picture in Messenger to go to options. Scroll to SMS and tap the slider to turn that option off.

Once you have done that search App Permissions in your settings and turn off the app permissions for Facebook you don’t think it really needs such as access to your contacts, call and SMS history.

For those that can’t delete Facebook for work or other reasons, managing the services permissions and being a bit more mindful of what you share can help you be a bit safer.

[Image – CC BY 2.0 Hamza Butt]