How to See All the Secret Data Facebook Collects on You
As you and another 1.86 billion users just like you sink deeper and deeper into the rage-filled, and ever-creepier and more cryptic privacy nightmare that is Mark Zuckerberg's cash cow and path to a presidency, every weapon you have to keep tabs on what you want to reveal on Facebook becomes ever more essential.
That's where Data Selfie comes in. It's a Chrome browser extension that can track all of your Facebook activity to see what the world's largest social network is tracking about you. It then uses algorithms from the IBM Watson artificial intelligence AI and the University of Cambridge to interpret the data into information about you, similar to the way Facebook targets you for ads based on your clicks, likes, and time spent on pages. The tool is free and open source, a product funded by the New York City Media Lab and the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program, and the scary thing... is it actually works.
It becomes readily apparent how creepy all of this is even after just a couple of minutes using the extension in tandem with Facebook. It counts off how much time you spend looking at posts, ranks your most-engaged friends (with their names and how many seconds you spent looking at their posts), and the pages you visit and engage with most. It then spits all that data out onto a chronological dashboard you can navigate, which is intentionally designed to look like old-school lines of code the implication being that this is all very raw information that can be broken down.
Over time, that information is extrapolated into a personality prediction that Facebook's algorithms could feasibly draw about you: religious orientation, political affiliation, whether you're organized or impulsive, concepts or general ideas your posts and shares reference, and more. Some of the insights -- depending on your personality -- might make you feel uncomfortable (maybe you're a liberal who posts a lot about President Trump, so you'll see his name in your "Concepts" list), but it's all information you were feeding Facebook anyway.
One big difference, however, between how Data Selfie breaks down that info and how Facebook breaks down that info is that Data Selfie stresses that it's not saving the information anywhere.
"You are hacking your own data," its promotional video promises. The data, the programmers say, is exported or stored to your own local hard drive, not on their servers or in the cloud. In the spirit of transparency, the developers dumped their code on GitHub for all to see.
If you've gotten to the end of this post and your morbid curiosity still compels you to learn information about yourself that you've already revealed to your future robot overlords, download Data Selfie from the Chrome Web Store and have a ball.