How to find and delete your Facebook data and your account?

With the latest revelation of Cambridge Analytica improperly using tens of millions of Facebook users’ personal information to help the Trump campaign, many people are considering either deleting Facebook entirely or looking at ways to delete and manage the data collected about them.

Facebook through the smartphone app and website can collect and log your phones calls, text messages, store details of all of your contacts, and much more personal information.

This is not the first time Facebook data has been used to target us nor will it be the last time.  If it’s not advertisers selling us products or services, it’s political parties trying to influence our votes or it’s rouge actors (countries, etc) preying on our emotions with fake news.

Although Facebook allows you to delete your account, they try to convince you to “disable” the account in which case, all of your personal data is still stored on their servers.  When you finally find the option to Permanently delete your account, they will give you the option to download a record of all of your personal information they have collected on you since you opened an account with them. USE THIS OPTION. Download this information on your computer and keep it secure. After you express your shock at the details collected, you may want to delete this information first.

When you delete your Facebook account, they still keep your data on their servers for up to 90 days (maybe more, who really knows?). Bur before you delete your account, we suggest you to check a few things first. See section below on “Permanently deleting Facebook”.

Whether you are concerned about the amount and type of data that Facebook collects on you or you just want to do some spring cleaning, we have prepared a step by step guide to find the data collected and to delete the data (whatever data that can be deleted).

What data does Facebook collect?

Based on which device you use to access Facebook, there are different ways to determine what info is being captured and how to prevent it. On your smartphone, you may have heard that the Android Facebook app may be collecting your phone calls, text messages, details of your contacts, your schedule, etc. depending on your opt-in settings.

On Android versions 5 and below (before 2015), all apps, including Facebook, asked all users for one-time permission to access a lot of information. As of version 6, all Android apps request permission for each item (SMS, phone, etc) individually, usually the first time you use this functionality. Unfortunately, Facebook continued to use the older Android APIs until 2017, which means that they got access to everything unless you changed your permission settings. This gave Facebook access to the metadata for your calls and SMS meaning, they knew when you texted and who was called, start time and end time but not the contents of the call or the text message. They even uploaded your schedule and contacts to their servers to “make your life easier”. They use contact data to recommend new friends to you. But this data can be used for many other purposes by advertisers.

Good news is that on most phones, you are able to control what Facebook can access. Go to the Android settings menu and click on Apps. Then find Facebook and click on Permissions. You will see a screen similar to the one below. Uncheck each item where you don’t want to give Facebook access to your private data. While you’re at it, check the permission settings for Facebook Messenger app as well.

Now that you’ve stopped them from accessing your data in the future, what can we do about the data that they have already collected?  Facebook claims that once we opt-out of allowing Facebook our SMS and Call log data, they delete it from their servers. I’m not sure if I believe this. However, we are able to delete the contacts uploaded to their servers using these steps:

  1. Go to the Manage Invites and Imported Contacts page
  2. Click Remove all contacts at the bottom of the page. Click “Remove” on the next screen. Depending on the number of contacts, it may take a few minutes for this step to be completed.Remove all contacts
DOWNLOAD ALL DATA COLLECTED BY FACEBOOK

To find out what Facebook has already collected from you, go to Facebook and download an archive of all your data that they have collected on you. Use the following steps:

  1. Click on the arrow in the top right-hand corner of your Facebook page. Then select “General Account Settings”.
  2. Click on the link “Download a copy of your Facebook Data”.Download archive link
  3. Click on “Download Archive” on the next screen.Download archive start
  4. You will then receive an email with a link to your download archive. The archive can take a few minutes to hours depending on how much date you have. The archive can be saved into your Downloads folder on your computer. This is a zip file which, when opened, reveals all your photos, as well as several html files listing your friends, advertisers and almost everything else that probably inspired you to exit Facebook in the first place. The easiest way to navigate all of this data is to extract the zip file into a folder. Open the folder and click on the file called “index”. You can now navigate this treasure trove of the data using a browser.

Are you shocked at the amount of data and the level of details that Facebook has collected on you? In their years of data harvesting, some of the data is to be expected such as our likes and posts, our photos that we have posted or been tagged in. What was shocking to see was contact data? We always suspected that Facebook had access to this data, otherwise, how could they recommend new friends to us. We probably at one time or another gave Facebook permission to access this data. It’s about time to review these settings again and take back control. (To delete contact data, see instructions above.) To delete photos, activity log, and all traces of you on Facebook, read the section below under “Permanently deleting Facebook”.

APP BLOCKING

This data archive even shows all of our friends and when they friended us. Now here’s the catch. When our Facebook friends play a game or do a personality test, they are essentially installing a Facebook app. This app will request access to the person’s profile and even information on their friends. Your friend, like most of us, will probably grant the app the access to all of their data without reading the details or even realizing that they are compromising your data as well. Even though you have done everything you can opt-out of giving way your personal information, these third party apps can still access your personal data and market to you. Rest assured, there is a way to prevent these third party apps from gaining your personal info.

To control what info these apps that others use can access, follow these steps.

  1. Click on the arrow in the top right-hand corner of your Facebook page. Then select “Settings” and click on “Apps” situated in the column on the left-hand side of the page.
  2. Click on the edit button under the heading “Apps others use”.Apps main screen
  3. Uncheck all of the boxes and click on “Save”.Apps other use

Permanently deleting Facebook account

Before you delete your Facebook account, you will need to check a few things to make sure that you’re not causing issues accessing other apps/web sites or leaving a trace of your Facebook life on their servers. Follow these critical steps before you delete Facebook account.

Check and Delete Linked Apps

One of the useful features of Facebook is its ability to be used as login for different apps and websites such as Instagram, Spotify and many more. You lose this integration when you delete your Facebook account. Not only will you have to create new logins for these other apps using your email address, you will also have to delete these linked apps that are linked your Facebook account.

  1. To delete the linked app, click on the arrow in the top right-hand corner of your Facebook page. Then select “Settings” and click on “Apps” situated in the column on the left-hand side of the page.
  2. Click on the edit button under the heading “Apps, websites and plug-ins”.App links page
  3. Click on “Disable Platform”. After you disabled the platform, you can individually remove the apps that are linked to your Facebook account. Click on the Remove icon and then click on the Remove button again. If you don’t see the Remove button, look for a link to remove or delete app. Disable App Platform
BACK UP YOUR PERSONAL DATA

If you want to retain some of the information linked to your account, such as photos and videos you have posted and the names of the friends and their contact info, you will want to download a backup of your account data. See above “DOWNLOAD ALL DATA COLLECTED BY FACEBOOK”

ASK FOR YOUR FRIENDS’ CONTACT INFO AND BIRTHDAYS BEFORE YOU DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT

Let’s face it; we all rely on Facebook to remind us of birthdays. Facebook even gives us a way to stay in touch with them using Facebook Messenger. You may want to keep contact info along with birthdates in your contacts app for those friends with whom you want to stay in touch with after your Facebook days.

Note: you will not be able to use Facebook Messenger when you delete your account. However, you can continue to use messenger if your Facebook account is disabled.

REMOVE ALL YOUR HISTORY AND TRACES OF YOUR ACTIVITY

Don’t leave it up to Facebook to delete all this data. Clean up your virtual footprints that leave traces of your Facebook activity. From the downward arrow menu, select “Activity Log” and then use the edit button to delete or unlike each action listed in your log. You can only delete your own posts. You can unlike other peoples’ posts. Unfortunately, Facebook does not provide a tool to delete all these posts at one time. You have to do it one a time. There are third party tools that can help.  There is one such tool as mentioned in this post.

Activity Log screen

DELETE YOUR PHOTOS & VIDEOS

Again, Facebook doesn’t make it easy to delete single photos or videos. If you have organized your photos in albums, the process is faster. The following covers the steps to delete the photos that you have uploaded yourself. Videos follow a similar process.

  1. Go to your Photos page and click on Albums.
  2. Go to the album you want to delete.
  3. Click the gear on the top right and select Delete Album. You can also download the album here if you like.
  4. Click to confirm

To remove individual photos, follow the steps below for each picture that you want to delete:

  1. Go to your photos page
  2. Click the photo to open it
  3. Click Options on the menu bar below the photo
  4. Select Delete This Photo and click Delete. You can also download the photo from the options menu if you like.

In addition to deleting the photos that you have uploaded, you can also remove the photos where others have posted and tagged you. The good news is that you are able to remove tags from 10 pics at a time which is a lot faster than deleting your own pictures. To remove these tags, follow these simple steps

  1. Go to your activity log, then click Photos and Videos (under Filters on the left) then choose Photos You’re Tagged In
  2. Click to check the box to the left of the posts you’d like to remove a tag from
  3. Click Report/Remove Tags at the top of the page
  4. Click Untag Photos to confirm

Permanently Delete your Facebook account

Since you are reading this, we will assume that you are not interested in disabling your account and that you want to permanently delete it. Facebook does not make it easy to find the option to delete your account. You will have to conduct a search from within Facebook for “delete account” where it will show you a help page on how to delete your account.

Search results pageClick on the “let us know” which takes you to another page.

Let us know linkClick on “Delete My Account” and follow the instructions.

Delete Account linkEven though your account is now deleted, your information may still be stored on their servers for upto 90 days.

THAT’S IT. You’re free of Facebook and all those notifications. What are you going to do with all this free time?