Facebook has a lot of information about—every post shared, photo uploaded, message sent, item clicked on, and pretty much every other data point you can imagine. And it’s all in the name of serving you better ads and keeping you on Facebook.
The thing is, this is still your information. You can’t get access to the weird metrics that Facebook tracks behind the scenes, but you can easily download everything else: messages, posts, photos, and more. So, let’s dig deep and have a look at how to see all the info Facebook keeps stored on you.
Downloading Your Information
Facebook has a tool to help you download all your data in one go. It’s useful if you want to leave the service, or just back up all your data separately. Go to the Facebook website, click the downward facing arrow in the top right corner of the screen, and then select the “Settings” option. You can also just go directly to Facebook.com/Settings.
Click the “Download a Copy of Your Facebook Data” link at the bottom of the General Account Settings page.
Next, click the “Start My Archive” button.
Type your password when asked, and you’ll be told that it will take Facebook a few minutes to gather your data. It took about two hours for mine, although my archive ended up being 1.58 GB. Facebook will email you when your archive is ready for downloading, so go and do something else for a while.
When the email arrives, click the link, and then click the “Download” button on the page that opens. You’ll need to type your password again to start your download. Depending on the size of your archive and the speed of your internet connection, this could also take a while.
Exploring Your Data
Your Facebook archive downloads as a .ZIP file, so extract it using the tool of your choice. All the data is buried in the different subfolders. You can explore those folders directly, but there’s a simpler way to do things. Double click the index.htm file in the top level of your Facebook archive folder.
This opens a weird, offline version of Facebook that’s stored locally in your archive.
There are 13 different sections to explore so lets take them one by one.
The Profile section contains all the information you’ve ever entered on your profile, from previous relationships and where you’ve worked to pages you’ve liked and books you’ve read.
Facebook can pull information from the contacts in your phone to recommend people you add as friends. The Contact Info page shows all the names, phone numbers, and email addresses you’ve uploaded to Facebook.
Your Facebook Timeline is where most of your activity is tracked. Here, you’ll see everything from posts you’ve shared to friends you’ve made and events you’ve attended.
Photos are probably a big part of your Facebook experience. In the Photos section you’ll see all the photos you’ve uploaded (including their EXIF data), divided into any albums you’ve created.
Like Photos, Videos is a collection of all the videos you’ve ever posted to Facebook. I found that videos generated by Facebook (such as Friendiversary or birthday videos) were not downloaded automatically, but a link was provided to download them separately.
The Friends sections contains a list of:
All the friends you have and the date you became friends with them.
All the unanswered Friend Requests you’ve sent.
All the Friend Requests you’ve received but haven’t answered.
All the Friend Request you’ve declined.
All the Friends you’ve deleted.
All the people you Follow.
All the people who Follow you.
Yep, it might be a long list if you’ve been on Facebook a while.
Messages is one of the really meaty sections. It contains all the messages you’ve ever sent or received on Facebook, sorted by contact. Even messages you’ve exchanged with people who’ve deleted their accounts are here, although they are listed as “Facebook User” rather than by their name.
A list of all the people who’ve Poked you and the most recent date.
A list of all the events you’ve been invited to, along with your response to the invite.
A collection of security related information. It includes stuff like when and where you’ve logged in, a list of all the devices from which you’ve logged, a list of all the IP addresses from which you’ve logged in, and a list of all the times you’ve changed security information about your profile.
Ads contains a list of all the ad topics Facebook thinks you’re interested in, all the ads you’ve recently clicked on, and all the advertisers who have gotten your contact information through Facebook.
If you’ve created any Check In Locations on Facebook, they show up here.
A list of all the Facebook applications you’ve authorized to access your profile, as well as applications you’ve created.
Facebook certainly has a lot of information about you, but there’s not much there you haven’t given them. Almost all the data in your archive is available on your Facebook profile, it’s just a little harder to sort through there.