How to download and look at the hoard of data Facebook has stored on you

Rob Waugh
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

The Cambridge Analytica scandal highlighted the sheer amount of data Facebook harvests on all its users – and how it can be used for dark purposes.

During the week that’s followed it’s become clear that Facebook has stored highly private data such as details of phone calls and texts, stretching back more than a decade.

Thankfully, there’s a way to see exactly what Facebook has stored about you – by downloading a copy of your own Facebook data.

To do this, click the triangle in the top right of Facebook on desktop, then select Settings, then select ‘Download a copy of your Facebook data’.

It’s at the bottom of the first menu. Click that, then go through to the Facebook data page and select ‘Start my Archive’.

It can take a while to archive all the data, as Facebook includes all your posts, chats, photos and everything you’ve ‘Liked’ during your time using the site.

Facebook sends you an email once the data is ready.

The Facebook data scandal could push people to get smarter about what data they give online services permission to access.

If you’re concerned, you can delete or deactivate your account – but you can also take steps to police who can see your information.

Setting your Facebook posts to private is the most important and simplest step you can take towards keeping your Facebook data safe – ensure people who aren’t your Friends can’t see it.


To do this, go to the top-right menu icon (in the desktop version of Facebook), then click Settings, then click Privacy.

From this, you can select several options, including ‘Public’, ‘Friends’ and ‘Only Me’.

Choose ‘Friends’ – which means that from now, no one you don’t authorise will be able to see your posts.

You’ll still have to deal with your old posts, though, as described below.

Just because a Facebook post isn’t on your Timeline doesn’t mean it’s not visible – people can often find old Facebook posts via the site’s search function.

Go to Settings, Privacy then select ‘Limit Old Posts’, which will mean everything is only visible to Friends.

It’s well worth taking the time to ensure every picture and post is at a privacy level that suits you.