Tech Guide

I checked and it turns out Facebook knows a lot about me

Key Points
  • Facebook has an awful lot of data on its users.
  • I decided to dig through as much as I could to see everything Facebook knows about me.
  • Facebook knows where I was on certain days, what I look like and more.
How to find out what Facebook knows about you
How to find out what Facebook knows about you

I've written several tutorials on how to find out what Facebook knows about you, including how to download a whole trove of data that Facebook has on your entire time with the social network. My next step was to dig deeper to see what else I could find.

In case there's any doubt that Facebook knows a heck of a lot about its users, I decided to become the guinea pig and show you everything Facebook has on me.

Here's what I found. And it was kinda frightening.

It can recognize my face

Facebook's facial recognition algorithm, which I have activated, knows what I look like. I was able to test this by uploading a picture of myself and seeing if Facebook automatically tagged me as being in the picture. It did. This allows other folks to upload photos and automatically tag the people in it.

Eerily, Facebook was able to identify and tag me in this picture, even when I'm wearing a baseball hat and sunglasses.

It knows every ad topic I've ever clicked

This provides an eerily accurate picture of my life. It has the town I live in. It knows a cover band that I've seen several times. It also knows that I like the author Jay McInerney or that I'm a member of the Elks. This is just a taste of the ads I've clicked on.

It has a list of every company that has my contact information from the ads I've clicked

Facebook also lists every advertiser that has my contact info. This list includes Airbnb, Spotify, The Economist, Target, Safeway, Brooks Brothers, Marriott and dozens of other companies. It also has names of individuals, including American singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton, for whatever reason.

CNBC explains how much of our data is really out there
CNBC explains how much of our data is really out there

It has a list of every contact in my phone book

Facebook has a copy of every single contact in my phone book including e-mail addresses (new and old) and phone numbers for each person. There are contacts in the list that I haven't spoken to since high school, which I graduated from in 2003. Notably, some of the phone numbers listed are not listed on those contact's Facebook pages and aren't even in my phone anymore.

It knows every social event I was invited to and/or attended through Facebook

Facebook knows every social event I was invited to since I joined the social network in 2005. I was in college at that point so it includes 21st birthday parties for folks who are now in their mid-30s. It also had an invite to a Gizmodo and Gawker party from 2009 and a gala at the Morgan Library & Museum I attended in 2014, all the way up to a golf tournament I was invited to that occurs this summer.

It has a log of every friend I have on Facebook and when we became friends

This isn't too terrifying on the surface, since it's the center of Facebook. What I did find a little weird it has logs of when we became friends. It also has data on who I've unfriended over the years and friend requests I've denied.

Of note: for whatever reason, all friends who were added before 2006 have the date Dec. 31, 1969 next to them. For their privacy, I've blurred the names of these friends.

It knows every time I logged in

Facebook stores data on every single time you log in, including from where, the device you used (smartphone or computer), the network you were on (T-Mobile), and the browser or app you used.

It has a copy of my timeline going back to the time I joined

Facebook has a copy of my timeline dating all the way back to 2005 when I joined.

Some people might appreciate looking at this many years later, but I wish there was an option to have it automatically delete content after a certain amount of time. It's an option I think Facebook should add, since it would give users the peace of mind that the data would eventually be deleted, instead of stored. It would certainly help gain a bit more of my trust.

It knows my major life events

I forgot I gave Facebook some of this information, but it knows the exact date I proposed to my wife and when we got married.

It also knows when I graduated from school and when I was born. A reminder: even if you forget, Facebook doesn't.

It knows every video I've watched on Facebook

Facebook has a log of every video I've ever watched on Facebook going back to early 2015. I don't remember watching most of them. One was a recipe for a cheesy buffalo chicken ring from BuzzFeed Tasty and another was a friend's girlfriend drinking a martini.

It knows exactly where I was

Facebook has data on where I was dating back to 2014, including multiple locations throughout specific days. Specifically, it showed where I was on Dec. 23, including at my previous apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey, in Times Square and in Chelsea, Manhattan, right down to the specific part of the street I was standing on.

Facebook says only I can see this history, but that's not entirely true. Facebook has an option to share your location with friends so they can see who's nearby, and it offers tools to developers that allow (with your permission) them to access your location.

It has old messages

Facebook has old messages that I've sent and received, dating back to around 2010. I never authorized Facebook to access my phone text or call logs, so those aren't here. Of note: these messages don't appear in Facebook Messenger, where they were deleted long ago.

It has a copy of every photo I've ever uploaded

Facebook has a copy of every photo I've ever uploaded to the social network. Each folder here is an album that exists on Facebook. Inside are the photos that I was able to download.

Want to know more?

I'm not too shocked Facebook has all of this information, since it's a history of data either I or my friends provided to the site piece by piece. Yet, taken as a whole big picture, it's a scary and very accurate mirror of my life, from 2005 when I joined, all the way today.

If you want to know more about what Facebook has on you, and how I found all of this, follow some of CNBC's earlier guides including How to download a copy of everything Facebook knows about you, How to see which apps have access to your Facebook data - and cut them off, and how to learn more about what Facebook knows about you.