Facebook retains tons of data on its users, but exactly how much? Apparently, more than enough to fill a volume of "Atlas Shrugged."
A 24-year-old Austrian law student named Max Schrems asked Facebook to send him all the personal data it had on him; according to European privacy laws, anyone with a residence outside North America has the right to see all the personal data a company has on him or her.
Here’s what Facebook sent Schrems: a CD filled with 1,222 PDF pages of data. The filelog, presented in a new YouTube video, included deleted private messages, deleted pokes, deleted relationships statuses, deleted friends, apps that your friends use, old chat conversations, past GPS coordinates, and so on.
That’s a lot of data on a 24-year-old with 234 friends.
"In theory Facebook could read all of Max's Facebook messages," the video narrator says. "The content of these messages might interest advertisers who place customized ads. What Max writes his friends might one day interest the police, or hackers."
Schrems's findings actually prompted an audit into Facebook’s Ireland operations back in October, though this is the first time the rest of us are seeing the magnitude of information Facebook has on us. Schrems now runs the site Europe Versus Facebook, which tracks his effort to make Facebook more transparent about how it uses personal data. If you're living in Europe—and oh how I wish I were right now—he teaches you how to request for access to all your Facebook data.
Facebook launched Facebook Timeline worldwide, which replaces your Facebook wall with a reverse-chronological "story" of your life. For more, see PCMag's Hands On With Facebook Timeline.