Internet privacy: Do this to download your Facebook data

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. Is it possible to download a copy of my Facebook posts and comments to my computer?

A. Yes, you can download much of your Facebook data, or a portion of those data, as follows. In the upper right corner of your Facebook page, click the dropdown menu arrow and select Settings, Your Facebook Information (from the left column menu), Download Your Information (as circled in the screenshot below).

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This action will launch the Download Your Information dialog box, pictured below, where you can download all your data or a selected date range of data. You can also set the desired file format (HTML or JSON) for the download, choose the image quality for all pictures downloaded (High, Medium, or Low), and indicate the type (or types) of information to be downloaded. By default, Facebook downloads all types of information, but you can select any combination of the following types: Posts, Photos, Videos, Comments, Likes and Reactions, Friends, Following and Followers, Messages, Groups, Events, Profile Information, Pages, Marketplace, Payment History, Saved Items, Your Places, Apps and Websites, and Other Activity. You can also download the specific information advertisers have collected on you including: Ads (where you submitted information to advertisers); Search History (all of your Facebook searches); Location History (as recorded by Facebook's Location Services tracking tool); certain Calls and Messages; About You information (related to your account); a history of your logins, logouts, and how long you were logged in; and information about the networks you have used. Once you've adjusted your download settings, click the Create File button to start the download process.

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Depending on the amount of your historical Facebook activity, the resulting download could take several minutes to many hours to complete. In my case, I downloaded all possible data, and the resulting 1.4 gigabyte file took 33 minutes to compile and download. The information contained in my download was both extensive and highly organized, but it was not complete for all types of data. For example, the list of videos I've shared on Facebook dated to only 2013, even though I opened my Facebook account and posted videos beginning in 2009. Still, I could view the very first comment I liked on Facebook, which occurred on March 21, 2009, when I liked my friend Glynn's Descartes-inspired quote "I link, therefore I am."

Also included in the Your Facebook Information page are options to view the same organized historical information without downloading it, as well as options to delete all or portions of your Facebook data (as pictured below).

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Keep in mind that your Facebook data have likely already been harvested by many Facebook partners, so deleting them now will not remove your data previously harvested by other vendors. I'm not entirely sure how useful a copy of your Facebook information might be to you, but for me the comments, photos, videos, likes, and other information represent a partial diary of my life for the past nine years, neatly organized and highly searchable. In the same way you might find your diary interesting or useful, the same might hold true for a copy of your Facebook data.


About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a conference presenter, and a JofA contributing editor.

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