What data does Facebook publish about you?

Find out what personal data Facebook publishes about people by entering their Facebook username here: zesty.ca/facebook. Background here. Related: another privacy hole has been discovered which apparently leaks information about events you plan to attend to people outside your "friend" network, regardless of your privacy settings. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling delete-y. (via EFF)


  1. I’ve already destroyed my Facebook account completely. Anyone interested in doing so can google this. It takes 14 days. This is a serious issue and I am a bit surprised it hasn’t had more traction. I have personally submitted about 6 articles to BB for their review. This is the first I’ve seen on the problems associated with Facebook and how this is just one more step towards the lack of privacy for users of big business applications (even those intended for users in genera). Are Users Being Used? Yes.

  2. Sweet. My account is locked down properly, nothing but my picture, name and “Likes” (which I rarely use) show up in that.

  3. I must be doing something right, all it has is picture and first + last name. \o/ horray for FB privacy

    1. Yes, I did. I don’t use Facebook Events either. Its good to know I should continue ignoring every one that comes my way though.

      1. Kewl…just wanting to make sure everyone knows what is done (which extends beyond events). I realize some will not care. That is fine.

        I wish these sites/applications would allow users to “opt-in” instead of making everyone “opt-out”. I also would like to see an opt-out to be capable of opting out of everything (which Facebook is not).

        Perhaps I am overly pessimistic or being overly paranoid but I just see this as one huge step in the wrong direction (and which will cascade into many other wrong steps).

        Although you and others may be web/tech savvy enough to understand the complications (and how to undo them), many others will not.

  4. This just posted on the FB blog…interesting timing?

    Will people beyond my friends see what I like or recommend?

    Yes, you should consider the likes and recommendations you choose to make to be public information, much like when you comment or write a review on any website today or connect with a public Facebook Page.

    Remember that even if you limit the visibility of a connection, it remains as public information and may appear in other places on Facebook.com or be accessed by applications and websites.

  5. But if I delete Facebook, how will I get annoyed at my 200 “friends” that I don’t actually give a crap about?

  6. As far as I can tell, the only data someone can get from my Facebook account without being my friend is first name, last name, and current profile pic. Oh wait, they can also see what timezone I’m in and the last time I updated my profile. I think I’m good.

    1. Are you referring to the API bug that lets strangers see what events I plan to attend? Wouldn’t that require that I respond to event invitations?

        1. Kaffeen, I read the article you linked to. To me that really seemed to be saying ‘the problem with FB is that people don’t know how to use it correctly’. It even talks about someone not personalizing their settings when given the option–and then being surprised that her profile is public. How is this FB’s problem? To me, not controlling your privacy settings is ‘operator error’, especially when there are help guides readily available.

  7. First, I should say that I have never had a FB account and have felt uncomfortable with them for years. I should mention that I attended University from 1998 until 2003, right during the earliest period of FB I believe, or at least I remember is rapid rise to popularity during this time. It might also be worth mentioning that my University actually had a student created and administered internal social networking site which I thought functioned quite well, but was overwhelmed by FB as were many other sites I am sure.

    I have question though, for anybody to think about or help answer. My social life has suffered because of not having FB. I mean specifically I have been missed out or not known about events that I would otherwise be invited too. I have been turned down for both 1st and 2nd dates by different individuals because of my inability to communicate over FB (sited by the other person specifically as a reason, which I am sure says as much about them as me, but nevertheless it was a problem) and although I can only document one case (through a friends account) that I missed out on a strait forward opportunity for intimate interaction with somebody that I happened to really like.

    Have other people found that lack of FB or other social networking participation leads to not only a loss of communication mediums but also to missed opportunities in the face to face social world? (My case is pretty specific to dating/events but this could apply to anything.)

    1. The only reason I keep a Facebook account is because it’s the only way I can keep in touch with family. We’re very spread out geographically and nobody seems to know how to pick up a phone (I include myself in that) so it’s FB or nothing.

  8. In light of all the reversals of privacy policy lately over at FB, I’ve removed all my personal info completely except the required items. I have also un-joined (left?) all groups, and will be using it for only status updates from others from now on. Since they appear to have no problem saying “This is private – oops we changed our mind”, I think I’ll remove myself from their lists thank you very much.

    It amazes me how many people don’t seem to get that changing things retroactively actually means just that – all of your previously declared information is no longer private. And since they now have established a pattern of this behavior, how long until everything you type is public no matter what your privacy settings are? They are beholden to their advertisers (money-sources), not their users. And their advertisers *want* all your info.

  9. I followed the link, (it took forever to load the website) and I’m totally satisfied with what just anyone can see: my name, (which you would know if you were looking me up), my profile pic (which is a picture of the coast) and one link that I posted (best friend’s dad was murdered and is unsolved). Oh, and I think you can see the groups I like (go FlyLady!).

    Actually though, I already knew what my profile looked like to the general public–because FB already showed me. In your privacy settings you can see what certain friends (if you have lists w/ diff. privacy settings) will see and what the general public sees.

    Yes, it takes some extra time to change your security settings and to preview what your page looks like to make sure you closed up everything to the outside world. Still, I think that it is totally worth it to have FB especially because it is ubiquitous; if my grandma were alive, she would definitely have a FB account. It’s so easy to share, well–everything. (Yes, I know some people take that a bit too far, which is why FB also has a “hide” feature where you can hide the annoying people who post their every move!)

    Anyway, I like FB and I’m satisfied with their security settings and my own ability to use them successfully!

    1. I think you should check out the FB blog where it says this…

      This just posted on the FB blog…interesting timing?

      Will people beyond my friends see what I like or recommend?

      Yes, you should consider the likes and recommendations you choose to make to be public information, much like when you comment or write a review on any website today or connect with a public Facebook Page.

      Remember that even if you limit the visibility of a connection, it remains as public information and may appear in other places on Facebook.com or be accessed by applications and websites.

      (I would highlight the Rember if you limit” section at the bottom…your privacy settings are not going to accomplish what you believe…in addition, there are many guides on how to make this as private as possible and all say to go beyond simple privacy settings, you can google this if you wish…it sounds like it doesn’t matter to you and that is good, for others maybe not so good)

  10. The biggest disappointment with Fbook for me is how many of my partying buddies from high school are now right wing nut jobs. They grew up, and in my opinion for the worse. Then there are those that seem to think Fbook is their own entertainment channel…’oh see how witty I am’…and then there the religious nuts (who also used to be my drinking buddies in high school). I don’t ever put anything on there that I wouldn’t tell anyone in public. It can be a good way to reconnect with old friends and family, but by and large I find it a big pain and disappointment and rarely use it now. I’ve never felt my information on there was secure and really private.

    1. My condolences. I have only one HS friend on Facebook, and he is indeed a nutjob, but an apolitical one. Everyone else is either family or people I’ve met in the past 5-10 years. I’ve hidden the RW nutjobs that are related to me, and they’ve probably done the same with me.

  11. This just in: every time you use pay without cash, use a store loyalty card, shop online (can you buy stuff COD any more?), etc… someone’s making a point of noting that you did something. However, since I really don’t see ANY targeted marketing towards me except by, say, Amazon (and only on Amazon’s web site/emails) I can only assume that no one has any idea what to do with the glut of information and that since I am just a regular person absolutely no one cares about what I like or dislike.

    So: whatever.

  12. If you don’t control the machine, or if you don’t at least have the ability to hit them with a malfeasance complaint if they don’t provide adequate security, ASSUME IT ISN’T SECURE. Don’t post information on line and expect more privacy than if you taped it to your front door.

    If you don’t want it published, don’t publish it.

    (On a related topic, I am perpetually amazed by how many privacy advocates are using gmail accounts.)

  13. Sorry kaffeen, but my privacy settings are accomplishing exactly what I believe they are. As I said, I can see how my profile looks to the general public in FB.

    I would almost put my real name on here just to prove a point–but anyone can send me a message on FB and I’m not setting myself up for an inbox full of random crap. (Although who can send you a message is another setting you can control, I chose to still let anyone send me a message).

    I agree that one should go beyond the ‘simple privacy settings’ and really look at what you are displaying to the public. But again, that is the responsibility of the user, and it’s not FB’s fault if you don’t do it.

  14. #27 – I have nothing to hide / of interest to others argument. The amount of data and assumptions (key word that) which can be made on the basis of what someone does / does not do is incredibly revealing. Governments, market research, policy deciders whoever, regularly dip their toes in the common pool to determine opinion and trends. Were I to be a government and tell everyone to regularly check in with me and to carry ID at all times there would be uproar and cries of ‘dictator’ etc. However, the widespread connectivity of FB/LinkedIn/Twitter/ the list is long is just one aspect of a watchful society. Add credit cards, CCTV, a mobile phone with node pattern matching against CDR’s (call data record), special offers on ‘Ten favourite numbers’, wifi… etc.

    It’s enough to make you paranoid. With a dictator you know where you need to stand…

  15. I can’t even easily find myself without going to facebook to get the id number and then it tells you nothing about me. Cool. Good to know my settings work.

  16. @keypontrucken & antiqueight:

    Of course you can’t go on Facebook and find information you’ve marked ‘private’. You’re not paying Facebook for the data.

    1. Some do not seem to care. I agree entirely though, they are having data used outside their control (whether they want it or not). There are all kinds of loopholes here. I would say to those who feel confident of their privacy to never assume anything, especially with a company that is intending to monetize your data.

    1. Excellent video link and a nice narration on exactly what I find so scary about all of this. I probably have a very boring life with no reason to be concerned (and the vast majority of the hundreds of “friends” on my FB were people I could care less) but I deleted my FB account immediately once F8 happened.

      I, and my life, may be boring; but is *my* boring life thank you very much.

    2. Interesting, indeed – but that is their old terms of service, before the shit hit the fan the first time.

      I’m not defending FB, hell I filled out my profile with complete garbage last year.

  17. A friend and I were discussing what is behind this – i.e. targeted advertising – on Facebook yesterday. Along with just about everything else, I recently removed my gender information from Facebook (it is “select gender” now). This resulted in *better* advertising for me. It got rid of annoying gender-stereotyped ads that I had no interest in. There’s still plenty of rubbish, but at least I get some interesting tech ads now that I am no longer a middle-aged female.

    My friend (PhD in media studies) is amused at the hollowness of targeted advertising. I just wonder why they can’t simply ask us what kind of ads we want. This kind of demographic targeting misses an important distinction: what we *like* is not necessarily the same as what we *want to buy*.

    The posts on BoingBoing provide me with better “advertising” any other source. Books, music (where’s Meara? I want her back again!), toys etc. The only useful ad Facebook ever served me was about a university degree a friend was interested in. So Facebook is doing more and more of that creepy stuff for, essentially, nothing.

    1. Target advertising fails for me too. I live in Thailand and 90% of ads I get on facebook are trying to sell me flights TO Thailand or hotel rooms/group tours there.
      Huh, no thanks, try again…

  18. A gentleman lost his cell phone. He asked all his friends to join a facebook group where they could leave their phone numbers. The list is set to private, yet I can still look at the contents. There are about a hundred phone numbers and names in the group. I found this list through a google search. Its scary.

  19. I just wish some team could create an open source peer-to-peer social network system to hold encrypted profile data in a distributed cloud combined with a set of programs/api’s and apps to allow access from any device. Friending someone would mean sharing a cipher key with them. It would be secure and the powers that be would have no way to control access or get access to private data.
    I dream, I dream…

  20. The key is to not post anything you don’t want anyone else to know on the internet (including Facebook). Make an account to keep in contact with other people, but don’t divulge your life on it.

  21. Thank you BB for continuesly exposing facebook dangerous game. I think facebook is the biggest thread to the open internet ever. I get more and more links that go through facebook or linking to content inside facebook. Facebook censored links to the wikileaks video – its a scary thought that one very dubious company (yes its dubious just read the story on how it was founded (idea plain out stolen) and who funded it originally (mafia)) is in control of so many peoples lifes – and there are so many very intelligent people who are clueless and don´t want to hear about any dangers – nervously smiling then just going on to make themself more transparent and the net more vulnerable.

    I agree with #39 – a p2p distributed encrypted social network with full control by the user and for the rest – well there are blogs twitter etc pp you know the open wonderfull internet as we know it.

  22. that is their old terms of service, before the shit hit the fan the first time.

    Ah, thanks for correcting me, my bad. Other than that, I think the ties to right wing money is interesting. Like “Fox buying myspace” kind of interesting. But maybe that’s just me and my tin foil hat getting out of alignment, I dunno.

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