Find out what Facebook knows about you

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 18, 2015
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Facebook

Most Facebook users know that Facebook knows a lot about them but most do not know what this includes.

Some information are obvious; the things you post online or information that you have added to your profile.

Others, like interests, IP addresses, facial recognition data or photo metadata may not be as obvious or not accessible on the site at all.

If you want to find out what Facebook knows about you, you can request a copy of your data from Facebook to analyze it on your local computer.

While that does not include everything, it includes a lot that you may find interesting.

Download your personal Facebook archive

download your information

The first thing you need to do is request that Facebook generates a personal archive for you:

  1. Log in to Facebook if you have not already.
  2. Click on the down arrow icon in the top right corner and select settings from the context menu.
  3. Under General, click on "download a copy of your Facebook data".
  4. Click on Download Archive on the next page and enter your password for verification.

Facebook generates the archive in the background. Depending on how much you have posted and uploaded to the site and interacted with others it may take a while.

You receive an email on completion that links to a page that you can download the archive from. Before you can do that, you need to enter your account password once more.

Analyze the archive

Extract the contents of the zip archive to your local system and load the index.htm file afterwards in a web browser.

facebook local archive

This is a basic HTML file that requires no Internet connection. You find pages listed on the left and the information that the selected page offers on the right.

Here are a couple of entries that you may find interesting:

  1. Ads Topic and History - This page highlights your interests -- based on likes -- and also your ad history which lists ads that you clicked on.
  2. Security - Lists a comprehensive log of account sessions and activity. For each session, date and time, IP address, browser and cookie are listed. In addition, all IP addresses used to log in to Facebook are listed on the page as well as a list. You find administrative records and cookie information on that page as well
  3. Messages - All messages that you have received on Facebook or sent to others.
  4. Friends - A list of all of your Facebook friends, removed friends, friend requests, followers and peer groups (only names).
  5. Photos and videos - all media that you have uploaded to Facebook including private ones and metadata.
  6. Contact Info - Includes your address, emails that you have linked to the account, phone numbers, your address book and screen name.
  7. Religious and political views, spoken languages, shares and posts.

As you can see, not all information listed above are accessible directly on Facebook. The archive is the only way to gain access to the data.

While it is interesting in itself, it may help you uncover security issues on Facebook. Since all IP addresses, account sessions and cookies are listed, you may use it to identify unauthorized access to your Facebook account.

Update: You may use this browser extension for Google Chrome instead to display the information Facebook has stored on you.

Find out what Facebook knows about you
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Find out what Facebook knows about you
You can download a copy of your Facebook data from the social networking site to find out what Facebook knows about you.
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  1. PJ said on January 24, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    On the topic of “what Facebook knows about you” & your social relationships … Does anyone remember that Facebook used to periodically email you a long “helpful” list of Facebook members that it thinks you might know in real life — & that Facebook kept nagging you to “Friend” them in Facebook life ?

    Those lists were quite accurate, probably because Facebook’s algorithm records whatever profiles you had looked at (be it for 2 seconds or 2 minutes), & then proceeds to sieve through the “Friends” of those profiles, so as to suggest people you might know.

    Whatever happened to the said Facebook feature ? Taken down because it is too plain weird & intrusive ?

  2. privacy addict said on January 19, 2015 at 8:40 am

    aha! I knew you were single! I could tell by things you wrote!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2015 at 9:01 am

      Maybe I’m just secretive about my relationship ;)

      1. PJ said on January 25, 2015 at 12:22 pm

        @Tom — Moritz Bleibtreu is one of the most prominent actors in Germany. I saw him in the 1998 movie ‘Lola Rennt’ (= “Lola Runs” aka “Run Lola Run”), then in the 2004 movie ‘Agnes und Seine Brüder’ (“Agnes & His Brothers”). That’s why I find Martin’s photo (or at least the way it was taken) somewhat familiar. Martin might not agree that Moritz could have been his long-lost double/ brother/ agent though.

        Interestingly, some astrological “authorities” define those born between 16 & 27 Aug as being born on the Leo-Virgo cusp. There are also others who variously define the date-period for the Leo-Virgo cusp as 18–22 Aug, 19 – 23/24/25 Aug, or 23–27 Aug.

        Apparently, Leo-Virgo cuspers have a “complicated personality”, possess “superb taste”, & are either “raging extroverts or very secretive”. Well, to return to the topic (sort of …), didn’t Martin previously use the word “secretive” ? But then, a secretive person won’t be posting any Facebook info on the internet, so I suppose “raging extrovert or very secretive” is an apt description for Martin. Hmm, complicated indeed …

      2. Tom Hawack said on January 24, 2015 at 8:49 pm

        Martin’s astrological sign is Virgo, which is well reflected in articles dressed always with precision. Leos such as those born 13 Aug 1971 are inclined rather to fantasy as well quite often to a theatrical ego :)

        Concerning the morphology I’m sorry to have to admit I know nothing of German actor & fellow Leo, Moritz Bleibtreu , and of our dear Martin but his visage’s photography.

        So, Martin, you have a double, and he’s an actor not an agent, either – Lol!

      3. PJ said on January 24, 2015 at 7:50 pm

        Talking about astrological signs, the all-knowing Facebook somehow does not realize that Martin bears a resemblance to German actor & fellow Leo, Moritz Bleibtreu (born: 13 Aug 1971).

        * Face/Off 2015 — Martin Brinkmann vs. Moritz Bleibtreu:

      4. Tom Hawack said on January 19, 2015 at 10:10 am

        Up to now we have an astrology sign, the fact the man is single and not a MOSSAD agent. A good start :)

  3. Tom Hawack said on January 18, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I guess you can’t be a professional computer/Internet blogger and not have an account on all social networks, even if privately we all have our preferences.

    I am still not willing to open a social account, or should I be, among the three major ones I’s start with Twitter. it’s not only privacy issues (I think I could manage), it’s above all the very pot of dialogs — planet wide — which makes me imagine a crowd rather than an evening with a couple of friends. And I don’t like crowds unless it be in sports or in a dancing, I dislike what I feel as a sum of false dialogs and simultaneously many, most disguised in back of a computer device. I just don’t feel that attracting. Something is not normal, normal as natural, authenticity is forgotten.

    1. PJ said on January 23, 2015 at 10:00 pm

      I don’t like Facebook’s user interface & random bugs (probably due to Facebook’s frequent tweaking), so I tend to use Facebook more as a newsfeed via a separate RSS option, rather than as social media per se. I tend to skip those newsfeed links that requires me to log into Facebook just to view the content. And I make sure that my newsfeed consists of genuine news updates, rather than inane drivel from known or unknown people.

      In this day, the Facebook newsfeed part has become somewhat unavoidable because many websites, organizations & non-mainstream media provide updates primarily or only via the Facebook channel. In addition, at places where the mainstream media & public discussion are strictly controlled by the government, if you avoid Facebook, you practically get to hear & read nothing except government-speake.

      “pot of dialogs” … “sum of false dialogs”
      On a sociological note, certain Facebook Groups (even when containing 4,000 members) do feel like an echo-chamber where the “dialogue” is dominated & controlled by the “elite” few who are blatantly in favour of each other, but behave passive-aggressively towards members not belonging to that “elite” core.

      The interesting thing is: The more elitist-segregationist that Facebook Group’s core is, the more likely that these “elites” would use the Facebook Group to post off-topic subjects, as well as for inane & trivial posts (eg. “Very sleepy now”, “Hey ABC, do you know where XYZ is ?”, photos of what the “elites” are eating, etc.) that should rightly belong to their own personal Facebook page or in private chat messages.

      1. PJ said on January 24, 2015 at 1:05 pm

        @Tom — Whether one likes & uses Facebook as it is intended to be used probably depends on one’s personality. Your deductions about Facebook being a “world-wide arena” for the “masses” (whether hysterical or not) are fairly accurate.

        Due to its user interface, Facebook also tends to attract users who like posting one or two-liners with zero value-add, simply for taking potshots, or for the sake of feeling like part & parcel of society.

        Then there is the peculiar concept of Facebook “Friends”. Based on my observations, Facebook members have no qualms about posting outright horrible & derrogatory remarks about semi-strangers they “do not like or respect” (actual quote from a well-known & well-regarded local journalist-personality defending her actions) — except that these targets are also their Facebook “Friends” who happen to walk to the beat of a different drum. Although this might well reflect human nature, it is sobering & saddening even for 3rd parties to watch.

        Anyway, the reason why I have a Facebook account is because of work. There was a public enquiry (via email) asking me to identify something shown in a Facebook post, which requires account login before the content can be viewed. And with organizations so entrenched in using Facebook nowadays, it is also quite inevitable that the company would request that you take a look at public enquiries coming in from Facebook itself.

        Otherwise, my Facebook account is more or less dormant — or in fact, dead on arrival. I’ve never posted anything on my Facebook Timeline, & don’t feel a need to. Due to the atypical way that I use Facebook (as a newsfeed/ news aggregator), I don’t think I would miss Facebook at all if it were to become extinct. I reckon that news providers would simply migrate to another channel to broadcast their info.

      2. Tom Hawack said on January 23, 2015 at 10:46 pm

        First thing is, as always, the possible gap between an impression and an opinion based on experience : I haven’t experienced Facebook. My argument therefor is that of not being attracted to social networks as such, Facebook in particular, not because I have a pertinent evidence against but because I just don’t feel motivated to try.

        Now, reading your experience, PJ, shows that there may be more to a social network than the front window, that perhaps one can have an eye on it with the two feet out, e.g. with Facebook’s newsfeed. I believed up to now that between official medias and social networks’ buzz remained a wide space with blogs, even if they tend to be less a fashion and therefor alive. At this time I already feel submerged with the amount of news data available. But quantity does not mean totality so maybe am I missing another source, be it of facts or interesting as well, that of comments.

        I also believe that nowadays there is an increasing interest for what others think of a fact, topic, event maybe to the detriment of a subject to object direct path, that is one’s own opinion. Frankly, I don’t care too much about what people think. Funniest consequence of this state of mind is that it impacts directly my behavior in a dialogue (I don’t try to search the other’s deep thoughts) and as a consequence those I dialogue with become talkative … when it is not my aim.

        Sorry for being too personal. But this is my only argument to explain my lack of interest for what is often the hysteria of the masses, IMO of course. On another hand I appreciate forums, even chats when I had the opportunity in the past (but small rooms!), but not these world-wide arenas.

        I keep in mind your comment together with a “never say never” and therefor, who knows, I might one day hop in the arena!

  4. intelligencia said on January 18, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    Mr. Brinkmann:

    First, I want to say (before looking at this photo) that I thought you were a much Older chap given your wisdom and knowledge relevant to all things Computer and Internet!

    Secondly, I am SO Happy that I completely Deleted (Not just De-Activated) my Facebook account!!!
    (the process took TWO weeks but I certainly hope the deed is done – – and NOT Archived somewhere given the lack of privacy people on earth have these days from ALL sorts of Prying Eyes [and Ears]!!!)


  5. MikeFromMarkham said on January 18, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Terrific article, Martin, as always. I’ve never had any use for Facebook or other “social media” sites myself, but my daughter (and her friends) spend a lot of time with them, so I’ve forwarded your article to her as suggested reading. Privacy is virtually non-existent on the internet these days, so the occasional reality check about what’s publicly available about you seems only logical to me.

  6. wut said on January 18, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    > Activities – Israel

    Whoa, didn’t know that you are a Mossad agent ;)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 18, 2015 at 6:57 pm

      I guess I would have been questioned less on my last trip there if that would be the case ;)

      1. Tom Hawack said on January 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm

        Well unless you cannot move anymore, you can still start :)
        The first step is not always the hardest :) Especially when the aim is to take-off! There we go flying. Crash is forbidden because of the plane.
        What a dreadful area of human nature, far from “Stir, never shake”.

      2. Tom Hawack said on January 19, 2015 at 10:23 am

        @Jojo, sometimes the authorities don’t know anything about their own men when only a few do. The privilege of the happy-few! That is, if it is a privilege to wait an hour for controls. Nothing looks more like an ordinary person than an extra-ordinary one in those circles.

      3. Jojo said on January 19, 2015 at 9:59 am

        No, they were just trying to help you maintain your cover! The Krav-maga interest gave you away. [lol]

        That’s a skill I would have liked to study when I was younger.

      4. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2015 at 12:14 pm

        Well unless you cannot move anymore, you can still start :)

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