The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

My Facebook Dossier—now you too can get yours

I came across this tweet:

Download your Facebook account .zip off their site, unzip it, then go to the HTML folder, open the contact_info.htm file. See records of who you've talked to on your cell?not with the app, just on your regular cellphone?and for how long.

Via Hacker News, Mat Johnson on Twitter

I'm curious. So let me download this .zip file from Facebook and see what they have on me (the link to download said file is on the “General Account Settings” page, shown as “Settings” from a pull-down menu masquerading as an upsidedown triangle in the upper right corner of a Facebook page). A few minutes later, Facebook notified that my .zip file was ready for download.

I'm happy to say that the contact_info.htm file is empty! Apparently, Facebook has a hard time obtaining such information from iPhone users (I only had the app installed for maybe a month years ago and ended up deleting it). Android users who have the Facebook app installed will probably be surprised to find what's there.

The timeline.htm file shows every post (but no comments!) I've made. My first entry reads “is trying to figure out the hype around MyFaceSpaceBook” from November 11th, 2008. And my first blog entry I posed was this one two days later. There are also copies of every picture I posted, along with any comments they received (nice). Interestingly, each picture also comes with additional information:

Since most cameras include such information in each picture (except for the upload IP address) it's not surprising to see Facebook using it. But as I know that most cameras include such information, I have always stripped it out before uploading the images (it doesn't matter where—whether to my own blog or to My­Face­Google­Linked­In­Space­Book­Plus) there's nothing there, except for the IP address.

There's a list of all the people I've “friended,” along with a list of requests I've sent that haven't been accepted. I see that Bobby Cannavale has yet to accept my “friend“ request I sent on November 28th, 2008 (come on Bobby! We were in a play together in high school! You remember that, don't you?). There's also a list of “friends” I've declined to accept (Sorry Ken Lee, but you left me hanging! No way I'm going to “friend” you now).

The scariest information I've found was in the ads.htm file:

Advertisers with your contact info

Thank you for informing me that Viking Ocean Cruises have my contact information, but why did I not get a cut of the action here, Facebook? You certainly earned some money selling that information to Inrego AB, but I too, would like some of that filthy, filthy lucre. Oh wait … you aren't letting me use Facebook without charge out of the goodness of your heart—I'm “paying” for Facebook with information about me. Okay, I get it. I'm the product being sold.

There's a bunch more information but it's stuff I have given to Facebook so it's not terribly surprising.

So that's what Facebook is willing to tell me about what they have on me. I'm sure they have way more on me that I'm not privy to, like what sites they have tracked me visiting, what I'm worth to them, and what they think I like and dislike, what my political affilation is, and if I'm one of the 50 million users whose information was ultimately sold to the Trump campaign, or if I'm one of the 180 million users whose information was ultimately sold to the Obama campaigns.

I'm not holding my breath on getting that information.

Obligatory Picture

[It's a study in contrasts—digital camera contrasts]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site: http://boston.conman.org/, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

http://boston.conman.org/2000/08/01

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

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