It’s well-known that Facebook is one of the biggest players in the Information and Big Data industry. If you have a Facebook account, then the company will certainly have been collecting data on you. What might surprise you is how much the social network knows about what you’ve been up to on other websites, all over the internet.
When you listen to the podcast featuring our CTO James Griffiths, you’ll hear him mentioning “Facebook pixels,” which might be a term you’ve not come across before. We thought it would be fitting to do a deep dive into the data that Facebook claim they monitor, both on and off their platform.
Firstly, what are “Facebook pixels”? Put simply, a Facebook pixel is a short piece of code that can be placed on a website. It allows businesses to track their ad campaigns, tracking data on who views the website, and helps them to plan ads for the future that can be designed for targeted audiences and demographics.
What this means for the end user (potentially yourself), is that your activity on websites that utilise Facebook pixels is monitored and used for targeted advertising purposes, showing you more ads that Facebook thinks you’d want to see. Fortunately, this week’s blog contains information on how you can use the Facebook mobile app to view the data Facebook has on you, clear the connection between you and the data, and minimise this connection for future activity.
Viewing the data Facebook has on you
To view your data, go to the settings in the Facebook mobile app, and select the “Off-Facebook activity” option. This will bring up all your most recent activity, as you can see in the images below.
Beneath the “Clear History” option, you can find a “More Options” button. Select that, and it will give you the option to “Download your information.”
From here, you can select the information that you want to see, as well as where Facebook has acquired it and linked it to you personally. Once you’ve selected the data that you want to retrieve, scroll down to the bottom of the page where you’ll find the “Create File” button, as shown in the image below.
Once you’ve created the file, it can take around an hour for the data to be ready for you to view, but when it’s available, select “DOWNLOAD” (or if you’ve downloaded it before, it will say “DOWNLOAD AGAIN”). You’ll be prompted to log in via the Facebook website, where it will initiate the download of a zip file containing all the information you want to view.
But what data did we find? We received data organised into 956 sections, including (but not limited) to the following topics:
Clearing the data
Once you’re aware of how much data Facebook has collected and stored on you, you might want to remove the connection. You have the choice of either deleting your account entirely or clearing your Facebook account history and deleting posts. The first option can be inconvenient, as it means you can’t utilise the platform, and the second option can be time consuming.
Today we’re going to show you how to clear the connection between you and your private data to make a start on decreasing your online footprint.
First, go to the app and go back to the “Off-Facebook Activity” menu, then select the “Clear history” option.
This brings up a confirmation tab where a discouraging message is displayed. It highlights the inconvenience that clearing all of your data could bring, such as having to log back into accounts, and points out that the amount of ads you see won’t change, but they’ll be less relevant to you.
Minimising the data tracked
Now that you’ve seen the data Facebook holds, and cleared the connection between your activity and personal profile, it’s time to minimise the amount of data collected going forward. Once again, go to the “Off-Facebook Activity” menu and select “Manage Future Activity.”
You’ll be greeted by a page on how Facebook uses the activity for targeted advertisements, which you may or may not want. Select “Manage Future Activity” and move the slider to the left, so it’s grey instead of blue.
If you don’t trust Facebook at all, you can always stop using it altogether. For those looking to keep on using Facebook, though, this will give you a better understanding of the data it has on you, as well as how to stop it tracking you further. You can carry on using the social network and keep most of your privacy, but it’s worth remembering that it isn’t completely free to use – the price is your data. Anyone reading this and worrying about how to protect their online information can get in touch with our cyber security team, for expert guidance.