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Data Demystified How Facebook Collects and Uses Your Info

In March 2018, it was revealed that data from up to 87 million Facebook users had gotten into the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a third-party data firm. This raised privacy concerns for Facebook users who now realized their private data was not completely secure. What seemed to be a harmless social media platform now holds all of your personal data that could potentially fall into the wrong hands.
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Facebook – one of the largest and most widely used social media platforms – has recently come under fire as users are becoming more aware of how their personal data is being collected and utilized by the company.

In March 2018, it was revealed that data from up to 87 million Facebook users had gotten into the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a third-party data firm. This raised privacy concerns for Facebook users who now realized their private data was not completely secure. What seemed to be a harmless social media platform now holds all of your personal data that could potentially fall into the wrong hands. You can read more about this here.

To rebuild trust with its users, Facebook has made changes to ensure people that their private data is safe. These changes include making app settings more accessible to website users, limiting third-party apps’ access to users’ data, fully cutting off user access to apps that have three months of inactivity, and discontinuing a program that once allowed marketers to link offline activities and users’ Facebook profiles.

What data can Facebook collect?

Facebook collects a plethora of information from its users – both personal data they provide and data collected while using the website. How does it do this? Through its website, apps, and other websites, other users and apps that use Facebook’s services.

When a user visits Facebook, the company can access their basic details such as name, age, gender identity, relationship status, political views, and religious beliefs. Plus all the content they share on their news feed; photos; posts; comments etcetera. Additionally, Facebook can track what websites or apps you visit; which ads you click on; how much money you spend…the list goes on!

By monitoring user activity closely Facebook is able to gain insight into your interests; friends & networks – allowing them to target ads specifically for you & customize your experience with the site. Not only that but also connect users with businesses or other websites/apps based on this data too!

Let’s look at how exactly Facebook is using your data

Targeted advertising

Since Facebook has access to your News Feed and what appears there, Facebook tracks and companies can pay them to be able to display advertisements on your feed and your friends. Im sure you have seen this when you opened your Facebook app.

Facebook tracks your likes and dislikes from your data so they know which advertisements you’re more likely to click on. 

Facebook has insisted that they do not sell your data to these companies, just access to your feed.

Also, Facebook has said that they do not look at your private messages to target you for advertisements.

For example, if you were telling a friend about how you were looking to buy a new laptop, Facebook advertisers would not be able to target you with laptop ads from that information. It was reported that Facebook had $40 billion in ad revenue in 2017.

Facebook Data & Visual Recognition

Facebook can also spy on your browser history, snooping out on what websites you’ve visited and which ads have caught your eye. This data can be used to tailor ads or tweak the user experience on the site.

Facebook has a technology that they use for visual recognition called DeepFace. Deepface AI technology is like a detective, using photos uploaded by users to detect human facial features. This information can then be utilized to upgrade facial recognition tech or study user behavior.

This facial recognition tool has been proven to be more successful than humans when deciding whether two pictures are of the same person or not. DeepFace scored 97% and humans scored 96%. Think of when you upload some photos and Facebook immediately pops up with tag suggestions for the people in the pictures.

This is where visual recognition is used. But, this feature has been controversial because some people are not comfortable with having their facial map data logged. In 2012, European regulators had Facebook get rid of the feature in several countries.

Analyzing your likes and shares for determining user behavior

Facebook collects data on all of your user activity, including posts you like and share, pages you like, and even what videos you watch.

It uses this to determine a profile of you and what you like and dislike. Facebook can use this data to target advertisements on your feed by knowing what interests you’re interested in.

Does Facebook sell your data?

Facebook does not sell user data to outside buyers, such as businesses or advertisers. Instead, it uses the data like a master chef would use ingredients – to target advertising and improve services. This is done through visual recognition, analyzing likes and shares, and using third-party data firms and apps.

The privacy policy states that Facebook will not sell user data but rather utilize it in other ways. It collects information from its own website, external sites, and browser history – all of which are used to tailor ads and content for users while also measuring engagement and improving services. But how much control do we really have over our personal information?

How does Facebook access your data?

Third-Party Data Firms & Third-Party Apps

Facebook gives certain third parties access to user data. This includes companies that provide services such as advertisers and analytics firms, as well as apps integrated with Facebook. The privacy policy states that while it doesn’t sell user data, it does share it with these third parties in order to improve services and offer more relevant ads.

Apps that you connect through on Facebook, like Uber and Candy Crush, can collect your data if you allow them to. Most people allow third-party apps and sites to link with their Facebook profile because of the convenience.

By signing in through Facebook, you only have to remember one password. But it is important to review what these third-party apps want access to. They could potentially be able to see your personal preferences and friend networks. It is now possible to delete sharing and other information made with third-party apps via Facebook.

You can either go to your Facebook settings, then “apps”, and manually delete them from your profile. Or go to the apps, websites, and plugins square, click on “edit,” and then turn off all third-party API access.

The Information You Provide

When personalizing your profile, think about all the information you readily give Facebook. This includes your hometown, current city, birthday, political views, sexual orientation, religious views, relationship status, and so much more.

Even if you don’t upload this information, Facebook can easily fill in the blanks. For example, if you didn’t type in your current city, Facebook can look at where you mostly attend events and where the people you interact with live.


Facebook relies on the use of cookies to record information and activity from its users while they are using the platform. But its usage of cookies does not stop there. On other sites, websites, or apps, you can like or share through Facebook and Facebook can record your usage on those websites or apps as well.

This can occur even when you’re logged out. Facebook defends its usage of logged-off cookie tracking by stating that, “Cookies help us provide, protect and improve the Facebook Products, such as by personalizing content, tailoring and measuring ads, and providing a safer experience.”

Where Can You See What Data Facebook Has Collected About You?

To view your archive: go to, then tap “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”

After that, tap “Download archive.” When the archive is ready, click “Download archive” and from here a zip file of your archive will download to your computer.

Facebook can be a double edge sword while it is a great platform for social media marketing and social listening but you do have the option to protect your privacy. Like all great tools, the application can build or destroy so understanding how Facebook uses data is important if you would like to learn more about how to control these settings you can view them here.

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