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How much does Facebook know about you?

Updated on December 17, 2011

Most of the people, who use internet and communicate with friends through the internet, use Facebook. People save all kind of information to Facebook, send messages with friends, post their thoughts, add and delete pictures etc.

According to the European Privacy Law (Directive 95/46/EC - PDF), European Union citizens have the right to access all the information that there is about the person. A twenty four years old student from Austria used that right and asked Facebook to send him all the information they already have about him.

1200 pages of information

Well - what were the results!? The young law student got what he asked for - a CD with his Facebook files - 1200 pages of information.

Since probably right now, the law student Max Schrems, does not seem to have so much information available in Facebook, where did it come? Max discovered, that Facebook had logged and saved absolutely everything, that he has ever done in Facebook, during the 2 years, he has been registrated to Facebook:

  • All the log-in and log-out times and places.
  • All the 'likes' and 'unlikes', he has ever pressed.
  • Sometimes GPS coordinates of the location.
  • All the pictures, the deleted and existing ones.
  • All the former names/emails etc.
  • Times and contents of sent and received messages.
  • All the profile information, that has ever been there...

...and the list goes on. Well, it means, that Facebook saves absolutely everything, that you do!

Max Schrems with the book of his life
Max Schrems with the book of his life

The next steps of Max Schrems

Max Schrem, after he got the whole book about his Facebook life, is working now on a project called Europe vs. Facebook to encourage the transparency of Facebook. You can read all the details about the project on its website.

Although the laws in USA are less stiff than in Europe, after that, Facebook was proposed a settlement also in USA, to take the privacy of its users more seriously. Also, a letter by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucusewas was written to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, to ask about the ways, how Facebook stores the information and how does it use the information.

Max Schrems says, that according to the European Union Law, in addition to the 1200 pages he got, Facebook should also state, where the data is from, what is the purpose of collecting the data and to whom the data has been made available. After few days of the request, the Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner started an investigation against Facebook.

What is the big deal?

The problem is that according to the European Union privacy law, the individuals have the right to be informed of all data that is being held about oneself, but it also grants the right to rectify or erase the data!

The biggest question for the law student was that why do they keep all the information that you have selected to delete, even if according to the privacy law, people have right to delete information about themselves. Facebook's origin is the United States, but due to the legal structure of Facebook, any user outside of the United States and also Canada, has a formal contract with Facebook Ireland Ltd., that is why it is a subject to European Union privacy law.

Probably, if you do not like the way it is, you just do not have to use Facebook! Since Facebook is very effective for marketing and most of the companies are using the social network, it might be difficult though.

Also, if you do not do anything extraordinary and attention catching and do not get famous, probably no one does not care about the files. But for example, if you once were young and partied a lot and put all kind of pictures and stories in Facebook, and one day, you are a to be the president of the U.S., some people might get interested.

Me, personally - it was a really interesting thing to find out! Since I do not like sharing some personal things in social networks anyway, I just do not put them in Facebook! I do not like the idea of Facebook having a copy of all the things I do, with whom I communicate and where exactly I am right now.

At least now I know, that if my memory is already fading and I want to refresh it, I can write to Facebook and ask all the history details about myself!

Watch on Youtube!


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    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 5 years ago from Western Australia

      Everything we create is full of huge possibilities at the start and full of downfalls in the end...this 'around the world chatting line' reminds me of the 'whispering game around the circle' I play with students at whisper the start of the sentence to the first ear and the last person's sentence has nothing in common with the information you start with.....facebook is open to myriad of interpretation depending on people reading it:)

    • otsipaku profile image

      Miina 5 years ago from Estonia

      It was quite an interesting thing to find out for me also. Although I did know, that there are some noteworthy lines in the Terms&Conditions of Facebook, but still. :] The autobiography idea is quite amusing.

    • profile image

      justsomechick 5 years ago

      i also want to know, who has access to all of that information saved about me! thats crazy! writing autobiography is much easier like that, just i'll have to ask facebook and they'll send me one.