How to Download Your Entire Facebook History
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Whether you’re leaving Facebook for good or just curious about what data the social network has collected on you, you might want to download your Facebook data.

The option to download your Facebook data has existed since 2010, as Mark Zuckerberg made clear when he promised to fix Facebook Mark Zuckerberg Promises to Fix Facebook in 2018 Mark Zuckerberg Promises to Fix Facebook in 2018 Every year, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes on a personal challenge. And for 2018, Mark Zuckerberg has promised to fix Facebook. Read More after the Senate hearings of April 2018.

So let’s take a look at how to download your Facebook data, what’s included, and, perhaps most importantly, what’s not included.

How to Download Your Facebook Data/History

Facebook Download Data

All Facebook users are able to request the data download via their General Account Settings. It’s not possible to use Facebook’s mobile apps to do this. Instead you’ll need to login to the desktop website using a browser:

  1. Open a new tab in your web browser and head to Facebook.com and login.
  2. Click on the downward arrow in the top-right corner and choose Settings, or head to Facebook.com/settings.
  3. At the bottom of the General tab click on “Download a copy of your Facebook data.
  4. Select what you would like to include, or leave everything selected (default) then click Create File.
  5. Wait until your data is ready to download. You will receive a notification when it’s done.
  6. Click on the notification, review the file size, then click Download.
  7. Enter your account password to confirm your identity, then wait for the download to complete.

Your data will be delivered in a ZIP archive (how to extract files from a ZIP archive How To Extract Files From ZIP, RAR, 7z & Other Common Archives How To Extract Files From ZIP, RAR, 7z & Other Common Archives Were you ever faced with a .rar file and wondered how to open it? Fortunately, managing ZIP files and other compressed archives is simple with the right tools. Here is what you need to know. Read More ). The size of all my data was 178.5MB, which is about a decade’s worth of light use. This took around three minutes for Facebook to process and make available. If you’re a heavy user, expect to wait longer.

Customizing Your Facebook Data Download

Facebook Data Downloader

There are a few options included when you click that Download a copy link on the General Account Settings tab. You can change:

  • Date range: Handy if you don’t want to trawl through years of data to find something.
  • Format: Choose between HTML (default) and JSON. If in doubt, leave it at HTML.
  • Media quality: Higher will mean a larger download size, though this is still going to be worse than the quality of the original upload due to Facebook’s aggressive compression.

You can also exclude certain items from the download. If you want a slim download and don’t need your videos and photos, omit them and watch your download size tumble.

Exploring Your Downloaded Facebook Data

Once you’ve got your ZIP file downloaded, extract it and you’ll see a basic folder hierarchy that matches up with the items you selected or deselected earlier. You’re free to trawl through these folders, but it’s a lot easier to open index.html in the root folder.

Facebook Download Index.html

This is essentially a front-end for all your data. You can click on individual sections to see the information contained within them, in chronological order. You can click your name in the top-right corner if you want to head back to the index.

Browse Facebook Data Download

Some of the more interesting (alarming?) troves of information are:

  • Ads Interests: Essentially topics that Facebook describes as “most relevant to you.” This is worth a look since many of the categories probably don’t apply to you, at least that was the case with my data.
  • Advertisers who’ve uploaded a contact list with your information: Facebook describes these as advertisers who “run ads using a contact list they’ve uploaded which includes contact info that you’ve shared with them or with one of their data partners.”
  • Advertisers that you’ve interacted with: Just how ad-savvy are you?
  • Messages: Including those you thought you’d deleted.
  • Friends: Including juicy categories like Rejected friend requests and Removed friends you’d forgotten about.
  • Calls and messages: Showing up for many Android users, as an iOS user I had nothing here.

What’s Not Included in Downloaded Facebook Data?

Facebook doesn’t give away everything it knows about you, just the things you’ve explicitly shared. There are some limited advertising flags, like your broader interests and adverts you’ve interacted with; but these don’t tell the whole story.

ProPublica identified over 52,000 unique “attributes” Facebook uses to classify its users. Most of these metrics, like “away from family” and “breastfeeding in public” do not appear in the Ad Interests section of your Facebook download.

Facebook Ad Interests Data Download

Instead you’ll need to find the list titled “Your Categories” in the Ad Preferences section of your Facebook settings to see what Facebook thinks it knows about you 6 Apps to Find What Facebook Knows About You (And How to Block It) 6 Apps to Find What Facebook Knows About You (And How to Block It) These sites and apps will show you what Facebook knows about you, how it collects data, and what it does with it. Prepare yourself; it's alarming. Read More . This is inferred data—descriptors used to categorise you based on all manner of interactions with Facebook services.

Other categories seem oddly empty in my own personal download. Location history was bare, despite my having checked in to venues and events on numerous occasions. What is Facebook doing with the GPS information it uses to track your logins and active sessions?

Facebook Data Locations and Calls History

The social network clearly knows more about you than it includes in the download, and users need to be aware of this. We don’t know what data Facebook collects based on our browsing history—which profiles we visit and when, the groups we are most active in—but it’s almost certainly happening.

It’ll be interesting to see legislation evolve as the authorities continue to probe into Facebook’s handling of user data.

Downloading Other Facebook Photos and Videos

So what if you want to download a video or photo that you’ve been tagged in? Facebook does not include these in your data download, since they’re not technically yours. There are plenty of legitimate reasons you might want to grab media from the site. Fair use laws protect your right to use this content in many jurisdictions.

We’ve covered plenty of tools to help you download public Facebook videos 5 Ways to Download Videos From Facebook 5 Ways to Download Videos From Facebook Is your Internet connection unstable? Do you hate Facebook's video interface? You don't have to suffer. There are quick and easy ways to download videos from Facebook. Read More , including Downvids and FBDown. FBDown simplifies the process even further by way of a browser extension.

FBDown Facebook Video Downloader

Downloading private Facebook videos How to Download Private Facebook Videos How to Download Private Facebook Videos If you've ever tried to use one of the Facebook downloader tools to grab a private video, you'd know that they don't work. But don't despair, there is a way! Read More is a little more difficult, since you’ll need to grab the page source code and paste it into a specific private video downloader. FBDown Private Video Downloader seems like the best bet in this instance.

We’ve shown you how to download Facebook photos 7 Ways to Download Facebook Photos & Videos (That Actually Still Work in 2016) 7 Ways to Download Facebook Photos & Videos (That Actually Still Work in 2016) A social network isn't just about talking, it's about showing what's happening in your life! Over time, you will upload so many images. How do you get them back? Read More before too, and most of these techniques involve use a desktop browser and the basic functionality of a webpage. If you’re looking for something a little more serious, try Ensky’s Album Downloader for Google Chrome.

Is It Time to Delete Facebook?

It’s fair to say that Facebook has something of an image problem at the moment. However, despite massive data breaches and seemingly insidious advertising practices, more people are using the service than ever before. Which is all kinds of crazy.

There are plenty of reasons to stop using Facebook right now Why You Should Stop Using Facebook in 2018 Why You Should Stop Using Facebook in 2018 Times have changed, and it might be time for us to stop using Facebook. Here are five reasons why. Read More , but there are also reasons to not delete your Facebook 7 Reasons Not to Delete Facebook #DeleteFacebook 7 Reasons Not to Delete Facebook #DeleteFacebook A growing number of people are calling on us all to #DeleteFacebook. However, while it's not perfect, we believe there are multiple reasons not to delete Facebook. Read More . So, the choice is yours. However, regardless of whether you decide to dump Facebook, there’s no reason not to at least download your data.

Image Credit: Christoph Scholz/Flickr

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