Expats need to keep careful records. We also need to keep our information easy to access and, when things go wrong, restore. Here I take a look at downloading your Facebook archive.
Facebook Data Woes
Facebook has been in the bad news section lately due to a data breach that vacuumed up some 50 million users’ personal data.
The stories swirling around that data breach prompted me to download my own Facebook data.
If you would like to understand how to minimize the data that Facebook collects, or eliminate it completely (subjects beyond this blog), there’s a very good article at PCMag.com you can read.
Below I’ll explain how to download and view the data Facebook already has on you.
Facebook Archive Backgrounder
You can download it, you can decide what Facebook puts in it, but what the heck is your Facebook archive?
Simply put, it’s a record of everything you’ve ever done on Facebook that you haven’t physically deleted at some point:
- everything you’ve ever posted on your timeline
- the messages you’ve sent or received
- every photo, gif, or sticker you’ve ever sent or received in any of those messages
- all the photos and videos you’ve ever posted
- all of the Facebook events you’ve ever attended online or received an invitation to
- every connection to Facebook you’ve ever made from any device (and every IP address used)
- each time you’ve changed your password
- each time you’ve changed your profile photo
- every contact (from your cell phone) you’ve allowed Facebook to know
- every friend you have, friend request you’ve sent, friend request you’ve declined, friend you’ve removed, everyone you follow
- plus, a few other things that I don’t really understand but that are listed on the various pages in the archive
My Facebook Archive
Years ago, I restricted access to much of what I allow to be shared with Facebook. Not long after that, I quit playing Facebook games. I also deleted a bunch of photos and messages and I don’t use the Messenger app.
However, records up until the point that I changed that access and stopped playing FB games are still there.
Most surprising were the contacts out of the cell phone I had back then. My doctor. My friends. The guy who worked on my car. Why would Facebook want those?
Facebook tracks you across your web travels (that’s why you see ads on FB for things you’ve searched for in Google) and tries to make sense of your connections with other people. That information is gold to advertisers and data geeks.
(This is something else that’s beyond this blog post but if you want to know how Facebook tracks you, search for “tracking cookie Facebook”. Oh yeah, Facebook will know you searched for that, too. Haha!)
Those of you who haven’t reduced access to your personal information might be in for a shock. I’ve read of people who have found some unexpected things in their archives like records of their non-Messenger text messages (not the content, just Sent, Received).
My Facebook archive download was just 90 megabytes. Depending on your Facebook settings, yours could be much, much larger.
I really suggest downloading the zip file while you’re on a PC or at least download it to a jump-drive.
How To Do It
If you want to download a copy of your Facebook Archive, it’s fairly easy.
Simply go to Facebook, click on the arrow in the upper-right hand corner, go to Settings > General Account Settings and look for “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”
You will have to verify your identity by entering your password. Facebook will notify you when the download is ready.
Facebook will ask you again for your password before you can begin the download.
Once the zip file is downloaded, extract it to your hard drive and find the folder. If you saved the archive with the name Facebook provided, the folder will be called “facebook-xxxxxxxxx”. The x’s will be your Facebook name.
What’s In There?
Inside the unzipped folder you’ll see a file called “index.htm”. Click on that and it will open in your web browser. You’ll be able to browse through your data like you were browsing a website by clicking on the items on the left of the page.
You can also browse by going back to the unzipped folder and opening each folder.
The top folder in the main folder is called “html” and contains every text item linked to “index.htm”.
For instance, in that folder is a file called “contact_info.htm”. Opening that will show you the same thing you’d see if you clicked on “index.htm”, and then clicked on Contact Info on the left of the page.
The other folders work the same way.
Keep A Record, Keep It Safe
Downloading your Facebook archive isn’t a mandatory chore unless you consider what you have shared, posted and chatted about to be important to you. Or unless you’re curious to see what Facebook knows about you.
It’s one of those records, though, that might be good to have on your regular backup disk or squirreled away in your own archives. With all of the hacks and attacks that occur online, Facebook could somehow lose your stuff.
Header photo Credit: Christoph Scholz Flickr via Compfight cc