Security Social Media

What Does Facebook Know About You? Why You Should Delete Facebook

Philip Bates Updated 23-06-2020

Facebook has 2.6 billion active monthly users across the world and knows a surprising amount about us—information we willingly volunteer.

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It’s not just basic details like name, age, and education: some are very personal and will make you want to check the Facebook privacy policy. Social networks are businesses. So what does this particular business know about you? How can you change your privacy settings on Facebook?

Facebook Knows Basic Information About You

should you delete facebook?

The line between your personal and online lives is immediately blurred. You surrender basic facts on sign up. You submit your name, email address, gender, and birthday. Facebook also needs to know who you’re friends with—otherwise, there’s little point. Through this, you can be linked to your family members and where you studied.

Facebook asks for your sexuality, current relationship status, political and religious views, location, and if you have your own website or blog. Using these, you’re slotted into a demographic.

ABC1 is a key target, encompassing middle-class professionals with disposable finance. Fortunately for Facebook, nearly 75 percent of high-income earners are on the social network.

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Snapchat is a huge rival to Facebook 5 Reasons Why Snapchat Is the New Facebook Facebook killed MySpace. Could Snapchat kill Facebook? It looks likely, and here are a few reasons why. Read More , but the latter still has serious sway with the traditional target age bracket, 18-34. Over 40 percent of Generation Z say they struggle with knowing which media to consume, so social media is vital to production companies, book publishers, and podcast services.

This is important because it means Facebook can command higher prices for advertising.

And because you’re tagging friends’ locations in status updates and photos, your ads can be personalised further to include advertisers in your locality. These can be generalized, but can be specific too—like how shops can track visitors using Wi-Fi.

Facebook Knows What You’re Interested In

Nineteen-Eighty-Four George Orwell surveillance

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Your profile documents subjects you like, including music, films, and books. Your timeline shows websites and articles you’ve shared. Facebook can tailor advertisements to better suit your “likes”.

In a January 2015 study, intelligent machines assessed the “likes” of over 86,000 Facebook users to predict personalities, with surprisingly accurate results. The investigation examined agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness. Cambridge University’s Dr David Stillwell told The Independent:

“The ability to judge personality is an essential component of social living, from day-to-day decisions to long-term plans such as whom to marry, trust, hire or elect as president… The results of such data analysis can be very useful in aiding people when making decisions.”

Anything you post to your timeline or anyone else’s is also recorded, as are Direct Messages. This data is sold on. Raw information is compiled to find trending topics, and is passed on to third-parties.

At least this data isn’t personally-identifiable. A list of popular TV shows, for instance, will be shared with stations like ABC, CNN, and Fox, but those partners can’t trace them back to individuals.

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Facebook Knows What You Look Like

This is particularly creepy. However, what the technology enables you to do is cool.

how does social media facial recognition work

Facebook can suggest tags of you in friends’ photos and vice versa. But far from simply telling what’s a face, and what’s, say, a close-up of a boiled egg, Facebook can distinguish you so well that it can automatically suggest tagging you in other people’s albums.

The facial recognition project, DeepFace, compares two different images and locates the same person in each, regardless of lighting or angle. DeepFace works in a similar way to smartphone’s Face ID Is It Safe to Use Face ID on Your New iPhone? You should be thinking about using the Face ID security feature on your new iPhone X. But is it safe to activate? Read More , storing your visage as data. It detects distinctive patterns (cheek bones, chin, eyebrows), symmetry, and relative measurements. It then creates an abstract based on a nine-layer neural network, a series of interconnected nodes similar to the synapses of the brain). DeepFace can then recommend tags for similar patterns.

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Facebook knows what you look like, with the same level of accuracy as the human mind (around 97 percent).

Fortunately, you can review your tags, and deselect unflattering images.

A Summary of What Facebook Knows About You

If you volunteer this information, i.e. either actively input data or simply share and like topics and articles, Facebook knows:

Your name; email address; gender; date of birth; who you’re related to; who your friends are; which educational institutions you went to; sexual preference; relationship status; religious views; your job; where you live; if you have any political affiliations; the address of your own website or blog; your favorite music; which books you love; TV shows you enjoy; favorite films; your phone number; the contents of messages you post on your own timeline; messages other people post on your timeline; the contents of DMs; which websites you frequently visit; topics you regularly talk about; and what you look like.

This is in addition to any information the company gleans from third-parties, and brands under the Facebook umbrella like Instagram and WhatsApp. We don’t know how Facebook’s acquisition of Giphy Facebook Buys Giphy: Should You Worry About Your Personal Data? Facebook has bought Giphy, so should you be concerned about the impact on your privacy, or just carry on using the GIF service? Read More will affect users either: more information may be collected, contrary to Facebook’s statement that little will change.

And it doesn’t matter if you don’t have Facebook. Information is collected about non-users and shadow profiles are created.

How to Change Your Privacy Settings on Facebook

Review privacy settings on Facebook social media

It’s easy to become complacent and give away a large part of your identity. Facebook is using your data to sell things. Most companies do.

So what can you do to protect your privacy on Facebook?

Click on the downward arrow to the top-right of your timeline. Then click on Settings & privacy > Settings. Select Privacy on the menu to the left, and toggle individual tabs. You can switch to Your Facebook Information and Timeline and tagging too. Alternatively, go on Settings & privacy > Privacy Checkup and review data on the service.

Concerns have also been expressed over Facebook listening to conversations via smartphones. Facebook has denied that it accesses your mic in this way, but some users remain skeptical. If you think your phone’s listening in for targeted advertising, check your app permissions now.

Should You Delete Facebook?

You’re probably looking for a more permanent solution, and the obvious one is deleting or deactivating your Facebook account. There’s a big difference—the former completely gets rid of your account, while deactivation is a short-term way of distancing yourself from the platform.

But deletion is really about damage limitation. It won’t affect those aforementioned shadow profiles, and some data still exists.

It’s still a sound option, but before you take any of these steps, you should investigate what deactivation and deletion mean for your privacy What Deactivating or Deleting Facebook Really Means for Privacy Thinking about quitting Facebook? Here's how deleting or deactivating Facebook can improve your online privacy. Read More .

Related topics: Facebook, Online Privacy.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. dragonmouth
    June 25, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    "What Does Facebook Know About You? Why You Should Delete Facebook "
    Why limit ourselves to Facebook? ALL social media sites hoover up user data. If you feel the need to delete FB, you should also delete all other social media memberships you have.

    BTW - When you "delete" your FB account, all you are doing is severing your connection to your online data. You may de-activate your membership(s) but you will NEVER EVER be able to delete your data. Once data gets out on the Internet, it stays there forever.

  2. Hilary
    November 22, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    The best social site is a pub, then athletic park, and then my kitchen.

  3. layla
    March 31, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    I think fb asks for ID verification if someone doesnt have a mobile phone number... because i did click i cant use this step.. for adding mobile because it wasnt working.. then they suggested ID. i think thats too intrusive for a social website to request. i also know that posting too many links too fast or posting too much to fast can cause to be alerted as spam. i really wish there was a better social site :/

    • Anonymous
      September 3, 2016 at 4:16 am

      "then they suggested ID. i think thats too intrusive for a social website to request."

      Well this is just the start, and everyone that ever used this evil website enabled this kind of overreach into our lives. Hell, the entire EU is talking about forcing its subjects to use their EU ID to log on to the internet. Expect more of this in the future, the age of privacy is ending.

  4. layla
    March 5, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    so I wonder if not answering Fbs questions will cause it to accuse of fake identity? whats the best way to avoid identity checks? I am a private person and it seems like i am targeted by Fb regularly.

    • Philip Bates
      March 31, 2015 at 11:35 am

      The worrying thing is, both FB and Instagram (which FB owns) are asking people to verify their identity by taking photos of official identification - like a driving license.

      FB's Terms state that you can't provide any false information about yourself, but doesn't seem to force you to answer any particular questions otherwise. We don't quite know what forces their hand, makes them ask for Photo ID; all they've said is that it depends "on what type of violation may have occurred." Which is helpful...

    • Mr. Knowitall
      March 21, 2019 at 6:07 pm

      When I opened my account twelve years ago ad seeing the potential for abuse well into the future I gave them my name, an email address set up specifically for the purpose, gender and made up a birthday (Feb. 29; every four years) and then made that private/no notifications when the option became available.) I've posted exactly one picture of myself and then deleted it shortly afterward; other than that nothing and no problems though every time I log in it reminds me that I still have 181 "questions" to answer. I also have a dummy account (in case of emergency and I have to make contact with others on the platform) with a fake name and age, no photo and zero questions answered. I check it maybe twice a year and so far so good.

  5. Hamid
    March 5, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    I am not using facebook for a long time.... i prefer to use twitter
    What about you?

    • layla
      March 31, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      I agree twitter is much better

  6. Anonymous
    March 3, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Thank you ... I'm seriously shocked . I will discuss this with my family .

  7. dragonmouth
    February 28, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    "25 Things The Social Network Knows About You "
    Just 25?!

    • Philip Bates
      March 31, 2015 at 11:31 am

      Well, I didn't want this article to be TOO long! ;)

  8. Rishabh Srivastava
    February 28, 2015 at 2:53 pm
    • Billl
      March 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Oh sure...let me just click right on that button Rishabh...

  9. Dolphine Kuzacs
    February 28, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Ditched Facebook for almost six months. Clearly the best decision in my life.