Facebook’s Data Download Feature Doesn’t Provide All Data
  • Facebook doesn’t provide all collected information on a user through the data download feature on the platform.
  • Apparently, Facebook holds back information on a user they have collected through other sources.
  • This matter was brought up on the second day of Zuckerberg’s testimony in front of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

You might already be well aware of ‘Download your information’ – the data download tool inside Facebook which allows users to download all the information the social media company has on them. During, the second day of Zuckerberg’s testimony in front of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Congressman Jerry McNerney questioned the Facebook CEO regarding this feature.

The congressman inquired whether Facebook allows users to download all their information through this tool, and Zuckerberg said that it does, which is a contradiction to the company’s own policies. For example, under the company’s cookies policy, it is advertently written that Facebook collects users’ browsing data. But the ‘Download your information’ tool doesn’t provide users with the said collected browsing data.

The social media giant has many such similar chunks of information pertaining to users, which it denies access to. For example, suppose one of your friends uploaded a picture with you in it. You will not be able to download a copy of that picture with the data download tool.

Again, let’s consider that you have denied sharing your phone number with Facebook, but the social media company still managed to get a hold of it because one your friends synchronized their contacts where your phone number was included. Now, the company does have your phone number, but it will not be provided in the data download feature.

Most importantly, the social media company also doesn’t share information regarding advertisers who use Facebook to target ads at you. And this is just a small fraction of the massive databases of personal information the company has gathered on you.

So why did Zuckerberg respond by saying “yes” when asked if the tool allows users to download all their information. Well, it apparently seems that Facebook doesn’t consider the information it has gathered on you, to be your information. Hence the appropriately named, ‘Download your information’ feature.

data download facebook sees all
Image Courtesy of YouTube

It is true that you can use the tool to gain access to all information that you provided to that platform, but it will not provide you with information that Facebook has managed to gather on you.

This is also evident if you pay attention to the exchange between Congressman Jerry McNerney and Zuckerberg:

McNerney: “Is there currently a place that I can download all of the Facebook information about me including the websites that I have visited?”

Zuckerberg: “Yes congressman. We have a ‘Download your information’ tool, we’ve had it for years, you can go to it in your settings and download all of the content that you have on Facebook.”

McNerney: “Well my staff, just this morning, downloaded their information and their browsing history is not in it. So are you saying that Facebook does not have browsing history?”

Zuckerberg: “Congressman that would be correct. If we don’t have content in there then that means that you don’t have it on Facebook. Or you haven’t put it there.”

McNerney: “I’m not quite on board with this. Is there any other information that Facebook has obtained about me whether Facebook collected it or obtained it from a third party that would not be included in the download?”

Zuckerberg: “Congressman, my understanding is that all of your information is included in download your information.”

McNerney: “I’m going to follow up with this afterwards.”

It is evident that Zuckerberg is only referring to information that the users themselves have put on to Facebook.

Now, it is worth noting that Zuckerberg did offer to shed some light on what they do with users’ weblogs and why they are not provided in the data download. “We only store them temporarily and we convert the weblogs into a set of ad interests that you might be interested in those ads,” he claimed. “And we put that in “Download your Information” instead and you have complete control over that.” he cited.