Posted by & filed under FaceBook, free speech, IS ethics, national culture, Privacy.

Description: Most of you probably know that Facebook knows a lot about you. But did you know that if you were to print it out, it might take up about 880 pages?


Date: Sept 27, 2011

European users can request their information with this Facebook form (instructions here). Max Schrems of Europe v. Facebook put his request in to Facebook’s Ireland office and says it took the company about 30 days to send his report, and that it arrived on a C.D. from California.

One thing that I found a bit concerning about the process is that it only requires a photo of your government i.d., your name, and birthdate to confirm your identity. Given how easy it is to get one’s hands on someone else’s ID (say if you’re dating someone and s/he leaves a wallet about your house), I could imagine some scenarios in which this process could be abused.  REST OF STORY

Questions for discussion:

  1. Who should own and control your Facebook data?

2.  Which privacy laws do you think are better U.SA. or Europe? Why?

32 Responses to “Facebook Keeps A History Of Everyone Who Has Ever Poked You, Along With A Lot Of Other Data”

  1. Jian Li

    The social network companies like Facebook can own the data but it must be under the control of the authority and the law. For business purposes, it’s necessary for companies to keep their clients’ data because it helps learning about the clients’ needs. For social network companies like facebook, the data is an important way to know their users. The data helps them build demographics, supervise how their website functions, and gives them a direction to improve their technologies. Moreover, since some people are using social network as a tool for crime. Keeping a record becomes crucial. It helps track the criminals and help the police to crack cases. However, as mentioned in the article, easy steps to require a personal data can become an issue. To protect the users’ pravicy, prevent from misuse or personal information leaking out. A more sophisticated personal information required process is necessary.
    The advantage of privacy law of Europe is that people have the chance to see their own activities. The users also have the right to know what the social network companies know about them. However, the law should also indicate the scope that the social network companies can use the users’ personal information. The law should make it clear that it is illegal to use the information other than business use or selling information to other organizations.

  2. Kristin Schneider

    Facebook has an ever shifting landscape of privacy and content. Just like many others, Facebook owns my social media identity on their system, and no, I or no one else can really get it back. Some think it’s unfair that they simply take your data, store it, and don’t really let you know this is happening. Well, I’m sure in the fine print somewhere, Facebook does tell you that they are going to store your data, and I’m sure somewhere you pushed an “ok” to agree with it. Well, I believe that Facebook has full right to use and store our data. It is their site, and we are simply using it. It is us who put our information on for others to see. So from Facebooks stance, they use our information for business purposes, to simply learn about their clients, and all of their needs. This information that they gather simply makes Facebook better. What I do believe should happen is there should be some privacy laws put into place. These laws should protect our information that Facebook is taking, prevent from any misuse, and maybe even a chance for us to see what the social networking sites know about us.

  3. Andrew Douglas

    Your Facebook data is property of Facebook because you have voluntarily provided this information to them, either intentionally or unintentionally. It is important that people realize that websites like Facebook are not private and many people are able to view it. Also, when it comes to the information that Facebook has collected on the activities of individual Facebook users, this is again the property of Facebook, just as the information on what groceries you purchase on your Safeway club card belongs to Safeway. You are getting something in return for this information though, either a discount on your purchase or the free use of a social networking website, it’s a trade off.

    I also believe that, as in Europe, someone should be entitled to see a list of all the information an organization has on file about them to not only allow for individuals to correct errors or inaccuracies in the data, but also so people can see what information these organizations are collecting and to help prevent hidden data collection or “spying”. There should be an open file policy in effect so users are able to see how “private” their information really is and perhaps adjust what they post online or provide to these organizations if they feel they are collecting data they have no business collecting.

  4. adam smith

    It is scary what facebook has access to but from the article it sounds like they only have access to information that we voluntarily put on the site our selves, so in essence we are giving them the information the moment we logged on and start using the site. If one wants complete privacy for allowing them to this information then they should think about the things that they write and put on facebook or even think about not signing up for such sites. It’s like most devices you need to watch what you say and who you say it to because it can leave a trail which can be found by others. It also seems that one can request this information to be sent quit easily and the article makes mention how easy it could be for others to obtain it as well for this I think there should be stricter screenings on sending this information out. Most people that have facebook are aware that the things they put on it can been seen by others and can be monitored by face book itself, so if this is something that worries or scares you, you should consider not having an account with such websites

  5. Julian Fisher

    When facebook first came out no one could have predicted that this site would get as big as it is. At first I thought the site was just a temporary fad like nexus and myspace. The site has evolved and been changed so much since 2007 that people didnt realize what they were doing when they filled out all their profile information. The data should be closely monitored by the law and any problems that arise should be held liable by facebook

  6. Taylor Elderton

    I believe that the companies who are collecting the data, as long as they explicitly describe what they are doing with the data and how they are collecting it, have the right to it. It is our own fault that nobody reads the privacy policy, although they should have to “highlight”, in some way, the more specific parts of the policy like what they will do with our information. However, in saying this, all of the information collected should be for purely internal use, and not sold to third party companies. I agree with the ads that are tailored to you ON Facebook, but personal information should not leave their databases.

    I think the law about having to provide the information to the person when requested is very fair, although it should require more information to actually get your hands on that data. But as a whole, I think Europe’s laws are better.

  7. Lindsay G

    2. Which privacy laws do you think are better U.SA. or Europe? Why?
    Personally, I feel that if Facebook is keeping massive logs of user information each user should have the right to have access to their personal information. I believe that the Europe privacy laws are progressive in this way. I do find a lot of the information that Facebook keeps to be a tad unsettling and unnecessary, but if it is going to be documented I agree that it should be available to its owners. I do, however, have a problem with the request process for personal information. As stated in the article, it is far too easy to simply obtain another person’s identification and have it faxed over to an office. To resolve this predicament, there should be a physical office that any curious Facebook user would have to apply through, thus ensuring that a user’s vulnerable information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. I do like the privacy laws in the U.S., in the respect that it is more effective at protecting every user’s information by keeping records private. I would, however, prefer the European system, if they had a more stringent and reliable means of proving a user’s identification.

  8. Alisha Coate

    Facebook should control your data. They should monitor it for criminal activity, bullying or misuse of the social network’s intended purpose. Facebook should not have the right to release your information to third parties without your consent or at least your knowledge. As an individual, you should take precaution on what information you make available on the internet. This article should serve as an eye opener that your data, once releases on to the worldwide web, can be made available to anyone. You have the authority to control what you make available but Facebook should also respect individual privacy and use the available information only for intended purposes.
    Europe’s policy is well designed in the way that you are able to obtain what Facebook stores about you. It is poorly designed in the case that your information is used for unintended purposes. Facebook gives its user’s personal information that is has acquired to third parties for business purposes. I believe that you should have control of what is given to other parties. Facebook should have to send out a specific waiver form you need to hand sign. It is too easy for individual’s to acquire this information that potentially could be used to steal your identity.


    Everyone should be aware that all the information they decide to share with social networking sites is not private; I believe that if anyone is really concerned about their privacy then they should not join social websites whose main objective is to share information with others through the internet. If I believe my personal information is important then I would not share it online. As soon as you agree to provide social networking websites with your personal data, that information belongs to them and they have the rights to distribute that information unless it is otherwise stated. I am not too concerned about the information that Facebook stores about me, they can even use my profile picture on their main page if they want, it is my responsibility to protect my online information.

    That being said, I also think it is fair for users to be aware of how their information is being manipulated. Facebook should state in their user agreement what they plan on doing with the customer data and then it is up to the user to agree to these conditions or to decline them; as soon as someone agrees to the conditions they have no reason no complain. It is the user’s responsibility to read the terms and conditions of social networking sites and to understand what they agree to when they post personal information onto these sites.

  10. Leanne Dalton

    Personally, I believe that Facebook has every right to store its users’ data, whether it is used again or not. When you sign up for social networking sites such as Facebook, you are prompted to accept their Terms & Conditions, and if you are not comfortable agreeing to them you should not use the site. Storing data such as pokes, events attended or not attended, and who you have been/are friends with may seem unnecessary, but it can be used as evidence in the future if needed. Data such as how frequently a user signs in, from which computers, and which other users sign on to these computers can allow Facebook to create statistics. From these statistics, the developers of Facebook can determine what needs to be worked on and what people are doing, and can improve the site. Surprisingly enough, people do not seem to understand that everything you put out onto the internet is permanent, whether it is onto your personal social networking profile or onto a corporate website. People seem to be very comfortable hiding behind their computers, unaware that they do not have the privacy and security settings they believe they do, but are outraged at Facebook when they find out the truth.

  11. Kristen Schalin

    I believe facebook has the right to keep information, and store data. Like any other company they need to keep track of data in order to get statistics which will assist the founders and developers to determine what is working and what isn’t working. Like any other company or program any personal information taken or gathered by its users is strictly for the use of that company/program and takes authorization from the user to be shared with a third party. So as for facebook sharing people’s private info with third parties without permission, I don’t agree with. No one besides you should “own” your personal data. People let programs and company such as facebook to use personal info to create profiles within their site they do not own that information, and therefore do not have the right to be giving it to third parties without the permission of that said person. People give out their personal data too many different services and companies; doctors, dentists, banks, post secondary institutions, they all have peoples personal information but because of privacy laws cannot give that information out to just anybody upon request. It is kept in safe non accessible databases. I believe facebook should follow these same policies. We are users of facebook and personal info should only be given out to people we choose.

  12. Iryna Guzhva

    I believe that Facebook like any other company has the right to owe and conrtol the information about its customers to truck what the site is used for, to protect customers from bulling, wrong activity on the site and so on.
    When user establishes a profile he or she prompted to privacy policy to which he/she should agree or disagree. If user disagrees with Facebook policy, he/she should not be on the site on the first place and should not complain after. People voluntarily provide their information about themselves. So Facebook owes this information. I think this info should not be released to the third parties. Facebook should state what customers information may be used for. I believe that Europe privacy laws are better.

  13. Randy Bonham

    I would like to say that everyone is entitled to privacy and facebook is abusing this, but in reality everyone is also entitled to stupidity, it’s the democratic way. In reality no one is forced onto facebook, and those who choose to join can share information or chose not to. This has become the double edge sword of social networks. I suppose one could argue that 14 year olds don’t have the necessary skills and information to make an informed decision, but if parents are considered they could, and should monitor their children’s internet activity. I think that facebook should review some of its policies to address the situation of gathering minor’s information, but the rest of us should take a more active role in guarding are information. I remember that facebook has been attacked by the Canadian government for some of their privacy policies before. I guess the question becomes to what extent government should protect their people from themselves. This question is both complicated and problematic. Governments could and have intervened in situations regarding the privacy of their populous, but in doing so the government gains more power and control over the same populous. Personally i believe that if you publish private information using a private company, it’s your fault and the company is entitled to that information.

  14. Chris Schulz

    As a private company Facebook is entitled to all the information you give them, they don’t force you to put every interest you have, what events you are going to, what you “like” etc. Really Facebook has found a way of collecting enormous amounts of information about you without being very obvious about it. If they asked you to check off your interests in a questionnaire type format people might be more hesitant in giving all their information away. Though with great power come’s great responsibility and Facebook’s track record isn’t the best when it comes to keeping your information private. In Canada the government had to step in and threatened to shut Facebook off because it violated Canadian privacy laws. Europe’s privacy laws are way better than the United States current privacy laws. The freedom of information act is a great way for individuals to keep track of what these companies know about you. Knowing that you could potentially receive over 800 pages specifically about you is interesting in the point that in the world of over 500 million facebook users you are not just a small fish in a giant pond.

  15. Chris G

    As some others have stated in previous posts, Facebook has the right to own users Facebook data, and only Facebook data. This does not include what you do in other tabs or browser windows while you are logged onto Facebook. It does not include what you do even after you log out of Facebook. I say this because I read a previous article that says that Facebook was keeping track of where you browsed while logged onto their website. This all being said, I think that if you decide to put personal information on THEIR website, then you should have no say how they use it within their site. However, as for all the annoying advertisements that show up targeted towards users, I think this comes close to Facebook selling personal information for profit. I have not read anywhere that Facebook gives away personal identifiable information but I do know that they allow Advertisers to target a certain demographic such as age, gender, location, etc. They even go as far as allowing singles websites like Eharmony and websites targeting men “looking for a good time” to gain access to single men’s pages. I think that Facebook should be forced to allow access to individuals wanting access to whatever information Facebook stores about them in its entirety and make it easy to understand without having to jump around the report. However, stricter laws over what companies can do with the information they have of individuals seems more reasonable and does not just single out Facebook, but other websites as well.

  16. Mark Dicks

    The information that Facebook records and tracks should be common knowledge to everyone and should not surprise anyone. You also can’t do much about it, for it is a free service. If people do no not want their information tracked and recorded by people they don’t know then they should get of their Facebook, as hard as this may be for some. I do agree that the law should monitor this very closely so as that these records and tracking are not being abused.

  17. Kashika Bhatia

    I have to admit that I am a Facebook user and one of the main reasons for my use is to keep in contact with friends and family from back home. It is truly amazing to see how Facebook keeps all the information on all of its millions of users. This is a goldmine for hackers and those who want to cause great harm. The last paragraph in this article is truly shocking about how you can request your information from Facebook but they ask you question which anyone can fake or steal such as the date of birth and name. This is truly frightening that anyone with a little technological knowledge can request this information and abuse it. It is indeed a big privacy issue as Facebook has so many users who log on to the website numerous times a day. I believe that storing such huge amounts of data is unnecessary but I know that if Facebook is doing it, so are other smaller (networking) sites which we might be using every day as well. Technology has advanced so much that it feels like it is now upon us now on how much information we choose to share and in what manner we share it so that a little privacy still stays intact.

  18. Daniel Bird

    I found this article to be very surprising, and also very concerning. Many facebook users, including myself, do not think twice about where our information is kept. We never consider who has access to our personal information, or how safe it is in the hands of facebook. On of the most surprising facts found in this article was when the use of cookies was identified. It is a scary thought to think that facebook has information about websites we visit even when we are not logged into facebook. In my opinion, this is an invasion of privacy. I understand why facebook keeps information such as message history; however information about the websites we visit is nothing to do with facebook. I understand that facebook has agreed to cut down on their use of cookies; however I feel facebook needs to be closely watched. I believe that nobody should be able to get access to our information through facebook. Facebook definitely needs to increase their level of protection because they have such a large database of information. From what this article says, it is very easy to obtain information about a person through facebook. Facebook as a company needs to take this into account and take the privacy of their customers more seriously.

  19. Blair Watkins

    Like many of the comments that have been posted on the blog, it is a concern to know how much information Facebook really has on their users. I use the Facebook network at least every day, if not several times a day, and it does concern me that they know details that i would rather not have them know. However, that being said, what are my options? Quit Facebook? I could do that but then what do I use the internet for? haha. It’s crazy how addicted people really are to Facebook and how Facebook drives internet use. It’s good to here that the company is reducing their use of cookies in order to comply with privacy complaints. I think when it comes down to it people need to be careful about how of themselves they expose on the internet anyways. It’s naive for people to think that information laid out on the web is lost in some great abyss. It’s always somewhere! And someone always can find it if they know where to look, no matter what website you use.

  20. Regan Smiley

    The information I just read in that article was pretty interesting and extremely unsettling. When you think about it, it’s not totally surprising that a social networking giant like facebook has all of that information about you. It’s just another chance of “big brother” to keep tabs on you these days it would seem. I have been a facebook user for about 6 years now so it’s crazy to think about how much information they have on me!

    I can understand why they keep certain information about a facebook user. By doing this they can get a far better understanding of how to get to more people and dominate more of the social networking market. But I don’t understand why they need to know what particular computer they use to log in and how many times you have logged in from that spot. It’s unsettling and in my opinion unnecessary. The fact of the matter is however, by knowing all of this there is little doubt in my mind that people will stop using facebook. For a lot of people I know that is their main form of entertainment. It’s sad I know but that is the way it is. I think people need to be more aware of the lifestyles they portray on facebook. I know people who have hundreds on unflattering, inappropriate drunk photos of themselves for all the world to see. Some businesses look at people’s facebook page to get a better understanding of who they are and don’t hire people due to pictures. It’s probably not fair but that’s the world we are living in now a days.

  21. Stacey Kowalchuk

    I found this article extremely concerning since no one wants their personal information to be know by strangers. I guess this is the risk we take being a part of such a large social network, and must understand that most websites leave cookies, and people can see what we are up to. Facebook has our information, and most likely we agreed that they could do this. There is lots of small print that most of us don’t take a look at, and I’m guessing we bypassed the part where we said they could use and store our information. I think however that Facebook should make it more know to the public that they are able to store and use this information. I did not know any of this before I read the article. If people knew more about it, maybe they would be more conscious about what they put on their pages, and how they respond to messages, and they wouldn’t have to worry about it bighting them in the ass down the road. It seems that Europe is more aware of what is going on with these Social Networks and what they are taking from our information. I like how people can see what these web sites are taking and what information Facebook has on them, and what activities they have been up to. I would prefer Europe’s Privacy Laws if they had a better system for checking identification when asking for this information.

  22. Corina Nelson

    I feel that it is scary that all that information is handed out so easily. Personally, I like to consistantly delete all the information off my page, and have very high privacy so that when people look at my page they cannot obtain a lot information. Therefore, the fact that those things are recorded so thoroughly is scary.
    Also, I feel like Facebook is always adding new ways to keep even closer tabs on people, such as when you update your status from your mobile device it adds where you were when you updated. Also, now they have a live feed on the top right corner that is telling you who is commenting on what photo or status and what is being updated.
    I believe that Facebook is gradually eliminating privacy one step at a time.

  23. Mark Dicks

    It should be of no surprise to anyone that a company and a social networking site as large as Facebook records and tracks information that people put on their profiles. The information that Facebook records and tracks should be common knowledge to everyone who has an account. You also can’t do a whole lot about it, for it is a free service for you to sign up and use as much as you desire. I was unfamiliar with the fact that Facebook leaves cookies to track what you’re doing even after you are logged out, although this is of no surprise. I find this a little bit disturbing to say the least might I add. If people do no not want their information tracked and recorded by people they don’t know then they should get rid of their Facebook account, as hard as this may be for some. I do agree that the law should monitor this very closely so as that these records and tracking are not being abused. I’m unsure of the laws in the United States and Canada, but I do like the European “right-to-access” , which is something that Canada and the United States should very adopt, although Europe they could be a little stricter on this.

  24. Erin Mitchell

    I have been a member of Facebook for at least 8 years! Throughout those 8 years I have done a lot of things and befriended a lot of people. for me, I think it would be very interesting to actually be able to go back and look at what my first status was and who were the first people I added to my friend list. However, I do find it intrusive and a waste of storage space to store this information about each and every one of the millions of Facebook users. I mean I personally don’t think that I’ve put any valuable, personal information on Facebook, but 8 years is a long time to have to remember each and everything that I have done on the site. I think that there should be a limit as to how long they can store your information for, and they should only save certain chunks of information and not all of it.

  25. Richard Infante

    all the data on facebook should belong to facebook. lets not forget that we are using this social networking site for free and that we are putting all the information there by our own choice. its important for facebook to collect as much data as possible because it helps so many businesses. the more data receive the more accuracy it shows. the information that you post is up to you and so is the accuracy of that information.

    i do however like the idea of Europe privacy law of the right to access. that way i would be able to know what type of information about me is out there.

  26. Kaitlyn Boyle

    I understand that Facebook is essentially a business but I think that each user should be the owner of all of their Facebook data. Facebook makes the majority of its money through advertisements, so what gives them priority over the actual user to own all of the data posted? That being so, since we are now aware of how Facebook actually operates, users need to be cautious with what they do or what they post on the website. From what I have read in this article I think that privacy laws in Europe are better than in the US. The “right to access” is an individuals right to know what the company they work for thinks of them. I know personally I would not want to work for a company that had formed a negative opinion on me based on my Facebook activity. Something that happen on Facebook are out of our control whether it’s the events we are invited to or who pokes us so the ability to justify things that companies see negatively would absolutely be beneficial to an employee. By being able to see what a company knows and how much they know, the relationship between an employee and the business that they work for would be much more comfortable.

  27. Taylor Chobotiuk

    It is a widely known fact that facebook stores all of your information so I believe it is open season to all those that sign up for its services. I deleted Facebook a very long time ago due to my concerns with privacy. When it comes to who I think should have access to your private information? I’d say no one, but unfortunately that’s not the case when you willingly sign up to a site that gives you fair warning that it is using all your information for their own financial benefit.
    I rather enjoy the fact that Europe allows complete disclosure of your own personal information to those that request it but unfortunately, the system can be manipulated using identity theft. I’d like access to all information compiled about me but at the same time I’d worry about someone submitting photo ID that was taken from me to gain even further information.

  28. Mayowa Ashade

    I think facebook has every right to hold and control subcriber’s privacy data because while signing up for facebook, we agreed to the terms and conditions, Hence, creating a contract between facebook and subscribers.

  29. Breanne Marton

    In my opinion no one should truly own your information on facebook except for those individuals that is required of to run the site and even at that I don’t think that it is necessary to keep track of everything you have done. Although this has proved to be helpful in some situations such as giving recommendations from cookies on certain websites, for the most part this is seen as an invasion of personal privacy. I don’t think that it is right if other individuals have access to everything you have ever done on your facebook account or continue to do after you are logged out of your facebook account. The amount of cookies that facebook obviously employs is quite invasive in my opinion and should be granted only to the usage on their website if at all. Some monitoring of your account is obviously required but to the extent of storing all your data from the start of your account seems a little excessive to me. I think that only the amount of information that is absolutely required should be kept by the offices of facebook and no one should be able to access this information outside of those individuals. If you would like to see the information stored on you I think that the requirements for access should be much more secure and not so easily accessible as it may be private information.

  30. Kevin K

    I think that the answer to the question about who should control and own our Facebook data is actually two different answers. The information that we *willingly* submit to Facebook (a service which people seek out and understand that their participation is not mandatory) seems fair that Facebook could internally use that for legal/ethical issues. I believe that the control of said data should be under the control of the submitter. Facebook does have security settings which are controllable and adjustable to fit the need of the user. Many don’t adjust their privacy settings and then freak the heck out when some viral information gets passed around, inciting everyone to grab their torches and pitchforks and head to the FB headquarters.

    People forget that Facebook is a business, not a wiki. Businesses cater advertising to their potential customers to maximize advertising revenue. If someone mentions that they enjoy quilting, it is efficient to have any quilting-related advertisements show up on their home page to fund The site and satisfy advertisers.

  31. Christopher Rush

    A lot of people would argue that we all know what we are getting into when we sign up for Facebook. Is that the case or does Facebook use deception, evasion and vagueness as tactics to support their business model; capture and sell personal data to marketers? Facebook makes the process of editing your user profile quite lengthy and confusing for the average user and they do this to deter users from obtaining that level of privacy and protection of personal data by making the process difficult. Facebook has been in the media for secretive operations and lying about what data they were keeping among other things. Personally, I could care less if they track how many people poke me on their site or who I’ve decided to no longer include as a friend, but of all the data they do keep, what bothers me the most is that they keep records of you instant messaging conversations and messages. If anything should be kept private, it is your conversations. Being profiled by age, sex, country, etc… is sensitive data but it is data that is already out there in other institutions like government institutions, it is information that is regularly foregone as it is required to be a part of society.

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