Facebook is at the forefront of information discovery when it comes to their users, with well-equipped algorithms optimised to extract the most information possible. In recent years, the type of data that Facebook has been able to collate about its users is at a level that is quite unseen before – significantly amassing the amount of data you give them yourselves through registration and sign up on the site.
Facebook, which is the world’s biggest social media and social networking site with over 1.94 billion users allows users to write and share statuses as well as photos and other types of media content with friends and family has a significant outreach – bringing in a whole variety of nationalities and ages to its site. Children, teenagers and adults alike enable Facebook to collate a significant amount of data through photos, videos and text – all of which is used to provide the end user with a better service.
This information and data, which we can categorise into three different groups – registration data, submitted data and algorithmic data are used for a whole host of purposes. From sharing with advertisers to tailoring advertising to best fit you, to optimising the content you see recommended to you on Facebook – the full extent to of which Facebook uses is mostly unknown. But what we do know is the significant amount it is able to collate and the information we’re given to us by Facebook. On their full data use policy, available on the site they state that the information is used to:
- Provide, improve and develop services.
- Communicate with you.
- Show and measure ads and services.
- Promote safety and security.
Discovering what Facebook knows about you
The three levels at which information is obtained – registration data, submitted data and algorithmic data work together to provide a big profile on your likes and dislikes, what you get up to and the pages you frequent online. In this next section, we’ll look at the type of data that Facebook can obtain from the three different data groups and delve into what this means for you.
Registration data – the information you give to Facebook at sign-up
- First name and surname
- Mobile number or email address (or both)
- The language at which you use Facebook
The data listed above is simplistic compulsory data. The sort that you must give Facebook to even create an account. Albeit, it doesn’t have to be legitimate but whether or not it is – Facebook will most likely find out.
Submitted data – the additional information you give the site
- Current and previous employment
- Place of education
- Current location / previous locations you’ve lived
- Other social media
- Websites owned by you
- Religious views
- Political views
- Relationship status
- Family members
- Life events
- Address book (your contacts numbers and information)
- Sexual preference
- Books you like
- Places you’ve visited
- Movies you like
- Music you like
- Pages you like
- Sports you like
- Events you’ve attended
- Events you’re attending
- Private messages
This category also includes information you write in statuses and posts, as well as every other form field that you fill data into. It’s also important to note that Facebook has software to understand what a photo represents, translating that photo into something more processable for an algorithm to understand.
Algorithmic data – obtained through linking your account with other apps you use, machine learning and the sites you browse externally of Facebook which see a Facebook plugin present
- Websites you’ve visited that have a Facebook “share” or other related integrated Facebook feature
- Content and data of apps you’ve connected to Facebook
- Matched data – Facebook checks to see if your details match an account on their other services, WhatsApp & Instagram
- Connotations that can be made through the existing information given
- Locations you frequent
- Device you use to access Facebook
- Your internet provider
- Internet browser
- IP Address
- Recorded audio information
- Your thoughts and feelings
- Your state of mind
- “Friend Peer Group” designation that uses data to guess what age grouping you are in life – even if your Facebook birthdate is fake. With groups such as “Starting Adult Life” or “Established Adult Life”.
- What advertisers already have your contact info
- Ad topics you interact with
- Ad topics clicked
- Facial recognition data
- Photo Metadata
The data in this category includes some of the most sophisticated data of all time. Most of which was collated through connotation, relation and integration of outside services and apps, this data that Facebook collects well exceeds the number normally collected through the likes of data submission into our individual profiles on the service.
Bonus: Although not necessarily fitting into any of the three groupings above, Facebook also uses third party data companies to obtain offline data on their users which can be used to connect brands with their users on the site. This data can be collected through many different offline sources, such as you buying a product and seeing yourself filling out a form.
The full extent of what Facebook does with your data
The inconvenient truth of this matter follows the quote “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product“. Although not giving away your name or information that will allow advertisers to discover your full identity, Facebook sells profile snippets to an advertiser to best cater to you – if you were a 28-year-old man from London who likes marathon running and biking, you could be certain to see ads for biking accessories, running shoes and protein treatments on the site. The extent to which Facebook uses your data to advertise to you is mighty, interlinking your profiles on WhatsApp, Instagram and other related Facebook-owned applications/sites – allowing for Facebook’s own kind of retargeting across their platforms and your devices.
Your data is also used for sophisticated relevance tailoring, to ensure you see the content that you most prefer. A lot of people see this kind of feature, that is used on social media platforms across the web as a websites way to create an echo chamber – but the truth is, a user won’t stick around if they’re not seeing what they’ve come for. This may be why whilst some see a newsfeed full of memes or news articles, others can’t get away from seeing the same individual regularly pushed to the top of their newsfeed.
So the next time you’re browsing Facebook, uploading a photo or writing a status: think about all that additional data you’ll be giving Facebook permission to access. Now whilst we’re on the topic of social media, did you know about the risks that can arise from Geotagging on Social Media?