Have you ever wondered just how much Facebook knows about you? It’s obvious that the more they know, the more money they make. But the entire process is pretty opaque — and that makes a lot of people nervous.
Data Selfie, a simple Chrome extension, is here to satisfy your curiosity. It’ll give you an idea of just how much Facebook knows about you. Just download it and your eyes will be opened.
The only question is, are you ready to take the red pill?
See Your Data With Data Selfie
Data Selfie is a free, open-source Chrome extension launched by New York-based creative studio Data X. The team is led by developers Hang Do Thi Duc and Regina Flores Mir. Data X believes in information transparency, online consumer protection, and the democratization of the internet.
The developers’ main concern is that even though people realize that what they post on Facebook can be tracked, not everyone understands that their passive activity is trackable too. The sole purpose of Data Selfie is to show you just how much data you unconsciously leave behind.
Filter bubbles, echo chambers, and fake news have become subjects of international concern. Every day, more abuses of data mining technology are registered around the world — and Facebook has played a significant role.
The Washington Post previously reported on the extent of the personal data Facebook uses to target ads to their users. The data points include things like your relationship status (including type and length of a relationship), credit card information, how much you’re likely to spend on products, and even how long you spend commuting to work.
Data Selfie only shows a glimpse of the information Facebook has available. This should give you an idea of the network’s reach.
How It Works
Much like Facebook, Data Selfie tracks your activity. That includes what you look at, for how long, and what you like, click, and type. The app then creates your personal data dashboard by applying natural language processing and machine learning algorithms from IBM’s Watson and the University of Cambridge.
The dashboard contains a number of sections. Each section is related to specific information about you, like your personality traits, your political orientation, and your religious affiliation.
You can see your activity on the site by date and time. Small, color-coded crosses indicate what you looked at, liked, clicked on, or typed.
Scroll down to find your top 10 friends and the time you spend reading their posts, as well as your top 10 pages and likes.
Up next are two lists of keywords and entities. The first list represents the recent content you have looked at. The second shows people, organizations, and places in that content. Both are ranked by relevance to you and your positive or negative sentiment toward them.
Keep scrolling to find a list of general concepts, or main ideas, in the content you looked at. And, maybe most interestingly, your very own personality prediction. The latter is presented to you in the form of a chart showing your percentile of the Big 5 personality traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
There’s a chart for your religious and political orientation, and a tab with other predictions about your gender, life satisfaction, general intelligence, and leadership. Once again, all of that is based on the content you see in your feed.
Finally, the dashboard concludes with information on your shopping, health, physical activity, and other preferences.
As the developers believe in information transparency and privacy, Data Selfie’s code is available on Github. Data Selfie stores all of the data it tracks on your personal computer.
My Data Selfie
Here is what I found out about my online self after about 40 hours of using Facebook with the Data Selfie extension.
Data Selfie put me down as a liberal (I suspect that comes from Al Jazeera and Now This news being on top of my pages’ list) and either Christian or not particularly religious. My psychological gender is 52 percent female (not sure what to make of that), and 45 percent of the general population has a higher intelligence score than I do (ouch).
Both my keywords and concepts are populated with DSLR-themed things. Hence, Data Selfie knows I’m looking to buy a camera.
I also found my personality predictions fairly accurate. According to what I type, Data Selfie placed me as a liberal and artistic person, spontaneous rather than organized, engaged with the outside world, both competitive and teamworking, laid back, and relaxed.
If that’s not what I am already, it’s definitely what I strive to be in my head. Except being disorganized; I always wanted to be a well-organized human being when I grow up.
How Accurate Is It?
While all of the above characteristics more or less matched my own perception of myself, there were a few things that Data Selfie didn’t exactly catch. For example, the entities section placed me as a Trump supporter.
I never cared much for shopping, therefore can’t really judge what’s right and what not. At the same time, I found my health and activity predictions rather amusing. According to the app, I’m a lazy environmentalist with no entrepreneurship spirit. I might have to start an outdoor business to prove Data Selfie wrong.
However, the point of Data Selfie isn’t to show you 100 percent accurate info. The app’s purpose is to show you how the data collection works. According to the developers, what you see on your dashboard is only the tip of the iceberg.
It’s up to you what to do with this information. You can install the app and use it regularly. It might even change your behavior online with time.
Another course of action would be to quit Facebook for good. They can’t use your data and influence your choices when you’re not a part of the network, right?
Or you could close this tab, forget you ever read anything about data collection, and go back to being a happy Facebook user. However, it’s not going to change the fact that in today’s world almost all aspects of our lives are trackable. Apps like Data Selfie are there to remind us that someone is always watching.
Are you concerned with how much Facebook knows about you? Have you tried using Data Selfie already? How accurate were your results? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!