It’s My Data, and I Want It Now!

[Ben Elliot and William Wickey]

How much access do you have to the data you put online? How much of what you do online is being recorded? 

In the case of Facebook, the answer to both these questions is “quite a bit.”

Facebook now allows anyone to download a copy their data saved. Users now have the opportunity to see just how much they are contributing in a “raw” format.  This is part of Mark Zukerburg’s initiative to give Facebook users more control.

What’s the advantage? Well, you’ll be able to see JUST how much of your “deleted” information Facebook still holds on to. Also, you’ll receive a comprehensive guide to EVERY action you have EVER made on Facebook. Theoretically, you could even upload all your data to Google Plus and leave Facebook altogether.

Downloading your data is actually quite simple.  At the top right corner click “Account Settings”, and then on the general account page find “download a copy” of your Facebook data.

The following information is included in the data download.

It will take time for Facebook to process your request, but eventually you will receive an email with a ZIP file to download all of your data.

How you download your data on Facebook”, a ZDNet article, provides a step-by-step guide of screenshots on how to download your data if further instructions are needed. Also, CNET has released a “how to” video as well.

Once the data is unzipped, inside the main folder are individual’s .HTML files organized by content. These .HTML files consist of photos, messages, events, wall posts, notes, friends, etc.  It’s best to open the “Index.html” file for the best viewing options of your data.

The amount of data in the file, viewed as code, really puts into perspective how much information Facebook users put out into the open. But in reality the average Facebook user’s data is not that large (about 62MB).

Seeing all of the wall posts, messages and uploaded contact puts into perspective the amount and value of contributed data. How this allocated data is applied is important in determining the overall value of the data. Ideally, the data users and individuals contribute can enhance their social media experience. Since Facebook it letting users and developers toy with their data, we don’t necessarily have to rely on Facebook to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

It is also worth nothing that throughout their tutorials Facebook refers to this as “your” data, even though it has been suggested that the company’s terms of agreement give them a legal claim to ownership over all the data uploaded to their site. For now, users may not have control of their data but they at least have access to it