Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY explains how you can make Google, Facebook, and Amazon stop tracking you on the Web.

LOS ANGELES – Like many others, this week I downloaded the data that Facebook has put together over the years, and frankly, it was scary.

I love the social network to show my latest photos, stay in touch with old friends and catch up on the latest news.

To preserve these features, Facebook retained:

– Location information of all my contacts. This happened when I joined and asked Facebook if I wanted to connect with other friends by importing my contacts from my computer where they happened to have their phone numbers and sometimes addresses. Facebook has lived with this information since I joined in 2007.

– Some restaurant or airport where I checked in.

– The IP address from anywhere I've ever logged into Facebook.

– My (appreciated by Facebook) political and religious views, despite my contributions, which focus on three areas: photography, work (the latest articles, podcasts and videos) and occasionally family.

– All my searches on Facebook over the years, the names of my followers and face recognition from myself and my friends.


After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when an app developer sold personal information to a research firm that helped Donald Trump win the election, Facebook apologized. It is said that it has tightened its data-sharing policy on app developers since the data leak happened. In addition, it becomes more transparent about the data it collects, the company swears.

In the meantime, some of the ad-targeting tools that have been available to data brokers for a long time are being reset.


Protect your Facebook information from third-party apps in just a few steps. Jefferson Graham reports #Talking Tech.

Want to know what Facebook has on you? Download the data. Just go to the Settings section of Facebook (the arrow next to the question mark, top right) and click "Download My Data" at the bottom of the "General Account Settings" page. Then you will submit your request and wait for Facebook's creation of your data, which you will receive via e-mail link. If you've been on Facebook for many years, expect the link to take a while.

When the file arrives, double-click to open the index.htm file in an Internet browser and look at it.

Despite the years of data collected by Facebook, downloading does not require a separate hard disk file for huge files. Most are text-based and therefore tiny files.

Facebook's list of downloaded apps by Jefferson Graham (Photo: Screenshot)

As I did, you talk about the obvious as the names of your Facebook Friends already listed on the social network, along with your posts, photos, etc.

Where it gets weird is in the phone numbers – why does Facebook have them?

Separately, Facebook has collected information about calls and text messages from Android devices, but the social network has defended itself by asking for permission. It was sold primarily as a feature for Facebook Messenger, so you can "find and stay connected to those who matter to you," said Facebook.

In the meantime, you do not need to download the file to find out which advertisers have reached the goal you and your personal information, including your religious and political beliefs.

Facebook's listing of your personal information used for promotional purposes (Photo: screenshot)

Again, in the section Settings Click on the Facebook section Show by clicking "Show" in the left menu.

Here you can try to mess with the Facebook algorithm by erasing so many of the assumptions Facebook has made. Politically and religiously, the first ones were for me, though the others looked pretty tame, just like male friends with birthdays within seven days.

After a few more clicks, I found out which advertisers got my information. The magazine Vanity Fair that I love, but do not subscribe to, has the goods with me, along with Dollar Rent a Car and Uber, which I use. Facebook said these companies had "your contact information" but not how extensive that was – just e-mail or phone number and address? (We've contacted Facebook to ask and wait for an answer.)

Facebook wants to create ads for you based on the sites and apps you visit. (Photo: Screenshot)

A section worth clicking on "No": the ad settings where Facebook asks if it can create ads for you based on the sites and apps you visit.

You could argue that targeted ads make better use of the Internet. I'm haunted all over the world, surfing with advertising for cameras and guitars, because Facebook knows I love them, but, hey, if I want to buy a camera, I know where I'm going.

Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst at Kaleido Insights, suggests having as many features as possible on Facebook. "The less information you give, the more privacy you have," he says.

Let's be real – you can click on any button and Facebook will still find a way to follow you. But it can track less.

More: Delete this Facebook? It's a lot more complicated than that

More: Bye Facebook, hello Instagram: users make their way to Facebook's own social network

More: How To Delete All Your Facebook Apps You Probably Have

More: How to Protect Your Personal Information on Facebook [19659005] Follow Jeffrey Graham of USA TODAY on Twitter, @jeffersongraham

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