Facebook Data

What data does Facebook have on me?

The data Facebook stores about you can include:

  • Messages and files you’ve sent or received on Facebook
  • The contacts on your phone, if you use WhatsApp
  • Topics Facebook thinks you’re interested in, which are used for targeting advertising
  • Metadata, including where and when you’ve logged in to Facebook, and what device you used
  • Details of the apps you’ve connected to your Facebook account

Don’t forget that it’s easy to control what data about you Facebook uses in advertising by changing the settings in your Ad Preferences Center.

You can also find out how to see and download all the data Facebook has on you, if you want.

What data does WhatsApp collect?

WhatsApp doesn’t keep the messages you send and receive, but it does collect data about how you use its services, including:

  • Usage data – such as the time, duration, and frequency of interactions you have with other WhatsApp users, which features you use, and when you were “last seen”
  • Device data – like what hardware, operating system, and app version you’re using, and which mobile network you’re connected to
  • Location data – if you are using location features of WhatsApp, like sharing your location with your contacts
  • Cookie data – if you are using the desktop or web version of WhatsApp

You can find more details about the data WhatsApp collects in the Privacy section of its website.

What data does Instagram collect?

In addition to the data that you share when you use Instagram (such as hashtags you use and messages you send), Instagram collects the following types of data:

  • Metadata – that is, data about your posts and messages, such as the location a photo was taken, or the time a message was sent
  • Contact data – if you choose to import your contacts from your phone to Instagram or sync your network from another app
  • Usage data – such as when you last logged in, which of your connections you interact with the most, or what posts you’ve liked or commented on
  • Device data – for example, what model of phone you’re using, how much storage you have available, whether you are looking at Instagram or just have the app open in the background, or how strong your signal is
  • Identifier data – including cookie ID, device ID, and Facebook ID
  • Data from Facebook advertisers – shared through Facebook features on third-party websites, such as “Login with Facebook” and the Like button

You can see a more detailed list of the information Instagram collects in their Data Policy, and you can control how your data is used in advertising by adjusting your Instagram Settings.

Can Facebook read WhatsApp?

No, it’s not possible for Facebook to read things you write in WhatsApp, because WhatsApp messages are secured with end-to-end encryption.

End-to-end encryption (also known as e2e encryption) means messages can only be viewed by the sender and the recipient.

Can Facebook read my messages?

Facebook can’t read messages you send using WhatsApp, as they are encrypted by default.

However, Facebook can read messages you send using Messenger, unless you have enabled end-to-end encryption. Facebook refers to this as having “Secret Conversations“.

Can Facebook hear you?

No, Facebook doesn’t use the microphone on your devices to listen to your conversations.

Some features of Facebook apps do require you to give permission for the microphone to be accessed – for example, making calls or sending voice messages through WhatsApp. But there is no evidence that Facebook uses the microphone for anything else.

The reason people think Facebook is listening to them is because the targeting of Facebook ads is sometimes uncannily accurate. This actually illustrates how powerful the data Facebook already has can be.

Can Facebook use my photos?

Facebook’s Terms of Use say that you own any content that you share on Facebook (including photos).

They also say that by uploading photos to Facebook, you grant them the right to “host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy…and create derivative works of your content”. However, that doesn’t mean that Facebook plans to make money from your photos without your consent: the point of this clause is to enable photos to be previewed and re-shared on Facebook without Facebook infringing the copyright of whoever created them.

From time to time, a rumour circulates on Facebook that you need to write a status update declaring that you are the legal owner of your photos. This isn’t true, so you can ignore it.

What Facebook owns

In addition to Facebook itself (sometimes called “The Blue App”), Facebook Inc. owns:

  • Instagram – Facebook paid $1 billion to buy Instagram in 2012. Professor Scott Galloway has called this “the single best acquisition in the history of tech”.
  • WhatsApp – In 2014, the founders of WhatsApp sold the company to Facebook for $14 billion
  • Oculus – the virtual reality headset company was acquired by Facebook for $2bn, also in 2014
  • 69 other technology companies, specializing in things like:
    • Artificial intelligence (e.g. Bloomsbury AI, Ozlo)
    • Computer vision (e.g. Grokstyle, FacioMetrics, Pebbles Interfaces
    • Speech recognition (e.g. wit.ai)
    • Augmented Reality (e.g. Surreal Vision)
    • Video and Audio (e.g. Vidpresso, fayteq, Two Big Ears, Masquerade, Quickfire, Wave Group Sound, Live Rail)
    • Messaging (e.g. Redkix)
    • Identity verification (e.g. confirm.io)
    • Social media apps (e.g. tbh)
    • Analytics (e.g. Crowdtangle)
    • Computer hardware (e.g. Nascent Objects)
    • E-commerce (e.g. The Find)
    • Blockchain (e.g. Chainspace)

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