There are a lot of smart people discussing digital privacy thanks to the latest Facebook controversy. It was worth discussing before, but this has served as a backlash catalyst with potentially unintended consequences. Before I explain, let me be clear: you shouldn’t download your Facebook history.
There are several pools of dialogue occurring on the Facebook topic. Critics pointing fingers at the clueless old fogies deciding our technological fate (and rightfully so), faithful Facebook users flinging vile insults at Zuckerberg (on Facebook mind you), and lots of smart journalists trying to get to the bottom of things.
Take for example the excellent piece by Brian Chen from the New York Times who was shocked at what he saw after downloading his Facebook history.
When you download a copy of your Facebook data, you will see a folder containing multiple subfolders and files. The most important one is the “index” file, which is essentially a raw data set of your Facebook account, where you can click through your profile, friends list, timeline and messages, among other features.
He went on to discuss the findings within his personal Facebook History:
- 764 names and phone numbers of everyone in his iPhone’s address book
- a history of each time he opened Facebook over the last two years
- locations, like when he was at a hospital two years ago
- list of roughly 500 brands that had his contact info
This will likely spark an unsettling feeling in your stomach and leave you wondering, “What about me?” I beg you- resist the urge and DO NOT download your Facebook history. Understand that Facebook has all the info you’ve ever input, because you agreed to those terms, and move on with your life.
Let’s face it: despite repeated threats, you probably aren’t going to delete your Facebook account. You might deactivate it, but there’s a good chance you’ll be back. Or maybe you will delete it- that’s not even the point.
The point is that the minute you download your Facebook History, you’re exposing yourself to the possibility that everyone in the world gets that info, including all of your Facebook Messenger conversations and nitty gritty details.
It sits right there on your computer, in your downloads folder, waiting for some hacker or thief to find it and exploit it. Facebook may have this information themselves, unfortunately along with some of their 3rd party partners, but it’s in a much more secure place than sitting on your laptop, smartphone, or desktop computer.
There’s a good chance many people will download their Facebook history, take a look at what’s inside, move on, and forget about it. What happens when their computer gets stolen? Or some shady character at a Starbucks figures out how to hack in? Or they send their device in for repair and a rogue worker has a looksee? I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next few years this surge of Facebook History downloads leads to some scandals and heartbreaks with some celebrities falling victim.
It’s ironic that people are so concerned about their data falling into the wrong hands yet download their entire history on an insecure device, making it exponentially more vulnerable to evil forces.
Here’s what you SHOULD do:
- Go to https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications
- Delete both active and expired apps that shouldn’t have your data
- Comb through every little setting at https://www.facebook.com/settings so you better understand your options
Now maybe you still want to download your Facebook history. Maybe it’s because you’re too dang curious about what’s in there. Maybe it’s because you truly do plan on deactivating or deleting your entire account. That’s fine, I succumb to your motives, you can learn how to download it here. But please… PLEASE… make sure you delete every bit of that Facebook History that you aren’t comfortable sharing with the general public and store anything sensitive in a secure location.
How many of you already downloaded your Facebook history?