When members of Congress asked Mark Zuckerberg earlier this month who owns Facebook users’ personal data, the Facebook CEO had a convenient response. Eight times during his testimony, he cited a feature called “Download Your Data,” to show that Facebook users really are in control.
“Yes, Congressman. We have a ‘download your information’ tool. We’ve had it for years,” Zuckerberg told US representative Jerry McNerney (D-California). “You can go to it in your settings and download all of the content that you have on Facebook.”
It’s true that users can download and review a lot of information with the tool, including status updates, messages they thought were deleted, drafts of videos that were never published, facial-recognition data, a list of people they unfriended, and, for some Android users, a list of phone calls and text messages. One reporter’s reaction after using the tool: “Yikes.” Wikileaks, Julian Assange, and alt-right provocateurs recommend giving it a whirl. And, just ahead of new, tougher European privacy rules, Facebook made some upgrades, including the ability to download your history of searches inside Facebook and location history, which were previously only viewable in a user’s Activity Log.