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How Does Facebook Use Your Data?

How Facebook Uses Your Data

Key Points

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, limit third-party apps’ access to users’ data, fully cut 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.

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, companies can pay them to be able to display advertisements on your feed. Facebook knows 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 the 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 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.

Visual recognition

Facebook has a technology that they use for visual recognition called DeepFace. This 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 what you dislike. Facebook can use this data to target advertisements on your feed by knowing what you’re interested in.

How does Facebook access your data?

Third-party apps

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 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 information 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.

How Facebook Uses Your Data

Through 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, 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 uses 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 website 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 their 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 its 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 and if you would like to learn more how to control these settings you can view them here.

Kimberly Stricker

Founder / Social Media Storyteller
Kim Stricker is a social media strategist, social media marketer, and founder of Social Motto social media marketing agency in Detroit Michigan. Kim consults with brands and companies on how to use the digital space and Social Media tools in growing brands. She’s managed campaigns for Nonprofits, Fortune 500 Companies, and small businesses in how to effectively incorporate social media into an overall marketing mix, and excel in the medium by giving their brands a strong voice in the community. Kim offers strategic marketing insights that focus on brand building and communicating visions, products, and services through innovative social marketing campaigns. By becoming a brand advocate and expert, Kim can develop and optimize content for social media outreach including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, etc. In addition, she always maintains an awareness of new social media marketing techniques in the marketplace, as well as looking for opportunities to innovate in new territories.
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