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European law allows every individual to get access to all data that a company holds about them. Austrian Max Schrems has created europe-v-facebook.org to help Facebook users get a copy of all their Facebook data. Schrems has started analysing some of the data that users have shared with him with interesting results.
Here are the highlights:
- Facebook connects users to machines and can tell how many users log-in from a particular machine and who the main user of that machine is.
- Checkins are never deleted by Facebook. They can only be manually deleted on the wall of the Facebook user. Checkins, for the uninitiated, are chunks of data where a user has told Facebook where they are. The data consists of the author, date and time, other tagged users, personal messages and an exact latitude, longitude and altitude.
- Your credit card and password are the only data that Facebook stores in an encrypted form.
- Facebook may have email addresses that you didn’t give them. This happens when a friend imports data about you and Facebook links that data to your profile.
- Facebook stores every friend request you ever received. Even those you rejected are stored forever.
- Facebook “pokes” are never deleted.
- If someone un-friends you or you un-friend them, the data that you had a former “friendship” is still stored in Facebook’s database.
- According to the site “The data sets we got from Facebook included random posts that were deleted by the user.”
If you are in Europe and want a hard copy of all data that Facebook has on you, you’ll need to request this data from Facebook. Its headquarters are “Facebook Ireland Ltd” based in Dublin, Ireland, but contacting the company directly usually doesn’t get any response. To get a hard copy of all your Facebook data, start by scanning a copy of your government ID. Then fill out the Personal Data Request form on Facebook.com. The form asks you to upload the scanned copy of your government ID.
According to Schrems, the first response is usually an email to try to make you go away with instructions on how to log-in to Facebook.com. It may be necessary to send two or three emails or file a complaint with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.
Once Facebook gives in, you will receive a CD by mail that contains a PDF with your Facebook data.