What they know: Part 2 – Facebook

Things they know

In our bid to stay connected, our lives have been splashed over the internet like a milkshake gone bad. Free services by large tech corporations collect our personal data in return for said services. Over time, we’ve become used to this arrangement and seem to ignore the sheer level of integration they have had with our online personas.

This series aims to remind us about ‘What they know’

For Part one of this series, click here: What they know: Google


Author’s Note:

This essay should be 30 pages long.

It isn’t.

But it should be.

They know A LOT


And I will not quote George Orwell’s 1984

Also, sorry no screenshots this time. Facebook and I broke up (sniff) about 3 years ago (sniff)

However at the end, there will be a way you can access all your data or at least know how much of your data is being looked into by the company.


Heard of Goa?

A place so cool that around October last year, they had 0 cases of COVID 19.

Yeah, that Goa.

Whilst we were roosting at home in late 2020, hearing about all our friends and colleagues going to Goa “for a break”, I had absorbed by then that Goa would probably now only happen in 2021. I had probably spoken to some of friends over WhatsApp or searched a few flight tickets (you know, to window shop). That was that.

Then I got an ad for the Grand Hyatt at Bambolim on my (very rarely visited) Facebook feed. It was followed by an ad for Goa Marriot and then one for cheap flights to Goa. All of this was in 1 day.

Having spoken to about my friends about this, they agreed that this was quite common.  After some initial study on their backend, I came to know about Facebook Exchange (FBX).  This product is an Ad exchange that forms the eco-system behind Facebook’s ad network. That was expected. What wasn’t expected was that they’ve had it since 2012. 9 years of my purchase behaviour, internet history (*ahem*), social media activity and browsing habits were being tracked by the Zuck.

P.S. Thanks Nipun drom Quora for this thread on FBX

So what are they up to?

Facebook works on three simple ideals:

  1. Data is important for advertisers
  2. Increase user time on platform
  3. Buyout, copy or destroy competition

I’ll be honest, this is not supposed to be a bash-up piece for Facebook. I have a bias, yes – but I admire what they’ve done. If there was no Facebook, other social networks would probably not reach where they are. And I’d not have a job.


There is a lot of data that Facebook collects on you everyday. Even if you haven’t visited the site/app.

Here are some ways they’re sucking up your data like a vacuum cleaner:

  1. In a phenomenon known as ‘Off-Facebook’ activity is how Facebook tracks shopping and travel habits. When you search something online or even go into a brick and mortar store to make a purchase, that company shares your information with Facebook. Once Facebook receives this information, the company uses it to send more personalized advertisements to your News Feed.
  2. Device data is another element that Facebook LOOOVES. Everything from your battery life to your device model, telephone carrier, data plan and preferred Wifi usage. One of the most ‘makes you sit up straight when you read it’ things I saw was that Facebook tracks your mouse’s activity on screen.
  3. Data that you provide is well, data that you provided to them willingly. Every picture of a sunset and beer with #ThisIsTheLife hashtag and every post of your graduation is now sifted through a bureaucracy of code that offers this information to the highest bidder. “Oh this guy likes Beer, goa and graduated in communications – we should show him ads about HOW BASIC HE IS” #SelfBurn
  4. When you use Facebook to login to apps, you’re basically agreeing for an exchange of information between two corporations instead of manually registering with a login and a password (neither of which you’ll remember after the first sign-in).

Although we haven’t really broached the subjects of leaks in this essay, there was an alleged massive leak (Over half a BILLION accounts) of personal FB data on the dark web. IndiaToday reports.

So wait, what do they actually know?

Okay, so rapid-fire time

  1. Events you attend
  2. Other social networks you use
  3. Your device information
  4. All of your volunteered data – Likes, shares, photos, groups, connections
  5. All your connection’s information
  6. Calls and messages (on the messenger platform)
  7. WhatsApp & Instagram (technically – since they don’t have direct access and is described as metadata)
  8. Location (at all times)
  9. Interests & purchase behavior
  10. Social circles (close friends/colleagues)
  11. Your ad preferences
  12. Phone numbers (A lot of them that you may nit be in touch with. Some are dead :/)
  13. Every chat on Facebook (ever)
  14. Payment history
  15. Games (How much you played them, what you prefer)
  16. Your business or workplace

By the way: all of this?

So what do I do?

Try this:
Step 1: Go To Settings (or Settings and Privacy in some countries)

Step 2: On the Left menu, click ‘Your Facebook Information’

Step 3: Click ‘View’ next to the ‘Download your information’ clickable

Step 4: On the next page, a fancy prompt from FB appears about your info being available at all times etc. On the bottom, there is a button “Create a copy”. Click it.

Step 5: Once the copy is created, it gets loads on the ‘available copies’ section. Click download

Step 6: Put in your password at the Facebook security prompt

Step 7: At this point a Zip folder should download

Step 8: Scream into a pillow

So what now?
It starts with you. Keep calm. We can control some elements from our online practices sometimes like sharing less or connecting through your personal logins. It’s up to you to decide how much you want them to know.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Jai Bahal
Jai Bahal - Co-Founder @ NAVIC
NAVIC aims to educate, inform and train students, professionals and entrepreneurs about the future of communications. NAVIC has collaborated with SCoRe for its flagship course: EVOLVE – A first of its kind curriculum that discusses hyper-relevant subjects like Meme Marketing, Trolls and Bots, AI in communications and more.

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