Whether you’re leaving Facebook for good or just curious about what data the social network has collected on you, you might want to download your Facebook data.
The option to download your Facebook data has existed since 2010, as Mark Zuckerberg made clear when he promised to fix Facebook after the Senate hearings of April 2018.
So let’s take a look at how to download your Facebook data, what’s included, and, perhaps most importantly, what’s not included.
How to Download Your Facebook Data and History
All Facebook users are able to request the data download via their General Account Settings. You can do this via your computer browser, mobile browser, the Facebook app, and even on Facebook Lite.
Since the file you’re downloading is quite large, we’ll cover the method most users will opt for—sending the request via your desktop browser.
How to Request Your Data on the Facebook Website
To download your Facebook data using the Facebook website on your desktop browser, follow these steps:
- Log in to Facebook.com.
- Click on the downward arrow in the top-right corner and click Settings & Privacy > Settings, or head to Facebook.com/settings.
- Click Your Facebook Information.
- Go to Download Your Information and click on View.
- Select what data points to include by checking the appropriate box under Deselect All, or maintain the default settings.
- Then click Create File.
- Wait until your data is ready to download. You will receive a notification when it’s done.
- Click on the notification, review the file size, then click Download.
- Enter your Facebook password to confirm your identity, then wait for the download to complete.
The time it takes for Facebook to create a copy of your information will depend on just how much data you’ve selected to download.
When it does arrive, your data will be delivered in a ZIP archive.
Customizing Your Facebook Data Download
Facebook allows you to sort your downloads and to choose which information to download according to a variety of filters. These include:
- Date range: Handy if you don’t want to trawl through years of data to find something.
- Format: Choose between HTML (default) and JSON. If in doubt, leave it on HTML.
- Media quality: Higher will mean a larger download size, though this is still going to be worse than the quality of the original upload due to Facebook’s aggressive compression.
You can also exclude certain items from the download. If you want a lean download and don’t need your videos and photos, omit them by unchecking them, and watch your download size reduce significantly.
Exploring Your Downloaded Facebook Data
Once you’ve downloaded your ZIP file, extract it and you’ll see a basic folder hierarchy that matches up with the items you selected or deselected earlier. You’re free to trawl through these folders, but it’s a lot easier to open index.html or index in the root folder.
You can click on individual sections to see the information contained within them, in chronological order. You can click your name in the top-right corner if you want to head back to the index.
Other downloadable datasets include:
- Ads Interests: Essentially topics that Facebook describes as “most relevant to you”. This is worth a look since many of the categories probably don’t apply to you.
- Advertisers who’ve uploaded a contact list with your information: Facebook describes these as advertisers who “run ads using a contact list they’ve uploaded which includes contact info that you’ve shared with them or with one of their data partners”.
- Advertisers that you’ve interacted with: Just how ad-savvy are you?
- Messages: Including those you thought you’d deleted.
- Friends: Including juicy categories like Rejected friend requests and Removed friends you’d forgotten about.
What’s Not Included in Downloaded Facebook Data?
Facebook doesn’t give away everything it knows about you, just the things you’ve explicitly shared. There are some limited advertising flags, like your broader interests and adverts you’ve interacted with; but these don’t tell the whole story.
ProPublica identified over 52,000 unique “attributes” Facebook uses to classify its users. Most of these metrics do not appear in the Ad Interests section of your Facebook download.
Instead, you’ll need to find the list titled “Interest Categories” in the Ad Preferences section of your Facebook settings to see what Facebook thinks it knows about you. This is inferred data—descriptors used to categorize you based on all manner of interactions with Facebook services.
Other categories may seem oddly empty, depending on which permissions you have enabled and whether you allow location tracking in the background, for example.
The social network clearly knows more about you than it includes in the download, and users need to be aware of this. We don’t know what data Facebook collects based on our browsing history—which profiles we visit and the groups we are most active in.
It’ll be interesting to see legislation evolve as the authorities continue to probe into Facebook’s handling of user data.
Downloading Other Facebook Photos and Videos
So what if you want to download a video or photo that you’ve been tagged in? Facebook does not include these in your data download, since they’re not technically yours. There are plenty of legitimate reasons you might want to grab media from the site. Fair use laws protect your right to use this content in many jurisdictions.
We’ve covered plenty of ways to download Facebook photos and videos.
Downloading private Facebook videos is a little more difficult, since you’ll need to grab the page source code and paste it into a specific private video downloader. FBDown Private Video Downloader seems like the best bet in this instance.
Is It Time to Delete Facebook?
It’s fair to say that Facebook has something of an image problem at the moment. However, despite massive data breaches and seemingly insidious advertising practices, more people are using the service than ever before.
There are plenty of reasons to stop using Facebook right now, but there are also reasons to not delete your Facebook. So, the choice is yours. However, regardless of whether you decide to dump Facebook, there’s no reason not to at least download your data.
Image Credit: Christoph Scholz/Flickr
Apple makes it easy to find out what information it stores about your activities. Here’s how to download personal data from Apple.
About The Author