How to see everything Google and Facebook knows about you

People are once again concerned about their privacy online, following the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica saga.

The Facebook profiles of over 50 million people were reportedly leaked to Cambridge Analytica, and this information was used by the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Cambridge Analytica obtained the data through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” – a personality test.

It used Facebook’s Login API for user authentication and was able to gain access to the information of people who took the tests, and their friends.

In South Africa, Facebook said 33 people used the app, and 59,777 South Africans were potentially impacted.

This is not the first time Facebook has faced backlash over its privacy policies.

In 2009, the company changed its default privacy settings for personal data which was previously private, to public.

When challenged on this, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said privacy is no longer the social norm.

This resulted in a campaign to quit Facebook and a $200,000 Kickstarter for Diaspora, the decentralised social web project which ultimately failed.

Your Facebook data

To see what Facebook knows about you, you can download a copy of your Facebook data.

Click the downward-facing arrow at the top-right of your Facebook profile, then click Settings.

Under this Settings page, click Download a copy of your Facebook data (at the bottom of menu), then select Start My Archive.

“We require you to confirm your identity to complete the download process. You will not be able to access the information until you have completed the security check,” said Facebook.

What you will find is detailed below.

Facebook download personal data archive

Facebook stores contacts

Previous versions of Facebook’s smartphone apps may have requested access to your contacts.

These contacts will be kept in your profile, even if you’ve revoked Facebook’s permission to upload contacts.

It is possible to delete these contacts by visiting the Manage invites and imported contacts page on Facebook.

Facebook also keeps copies of the messages you’ve sent, including messages from groups you have left.

It also keeps the photos and stickers you’ve sent through Facebook Messenger.

Facebook Likes to show you ads

Facebook uses the pages you like and what you and your friends talk about to figure out what ads to show you.

Topics I liked on Facebook, along with their related celebrities, are at the top of my list.

Others reported that Facebook had been able to determine their political affiliation based on their activity on the platform.

Facebook stores logins

Facebook stores when and where you logged into the service, along with the device you used, and your IP address.


Facebook also stores the name of every app you have linked to your account, which may be how they determined who took the “thisisyourdigitallife” test.

Google data

Google also lets you download an archive of all the data it has on you.

It hosts several online portals where you can see information linked to your profile. This includes:

Download all data

Google’s personal data archive download is called Google Takeout. It lets you request a full or partial archive of all the data you have in Google’s services.

This may include the contents of your Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos.

Other data in the archive includes everything you’ve stored in Google’s services – such as bookmarks, YouTube videos, calendars, and chats.

Google also keeps a record of the music you’ve listened to on Play Music, and the phones you’ve linked to your account.

What you didn’t know

What users may not know is that when you delete a file from Google Drive, it isn’t necessarily gone.

According to reports, copies of deleted files may still be found in your Google Takeout archive.

Spam and deleted emails through Gmail are also reportedly stored.

Google also keeps track of which sites you’ve accessed from search, and which images you’ve downloaded.

If you use an Android smartphone, Google stores every interaction on your device – including whether you’ve used a particular app, and voice recordings from Google Assistant.

Now read: Facebook executive’s 2016 memo shows company aware of its faults

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How to see everything Google and Facebook knows about you