What It’s Like to Wallow in Your Own Facebook Data

Excerpt from this article:

My own download held the usual digital flotsam—not all the information I had ever volunteered to the platform, but a lot of it: date of birth, phone number, schools. There were IP addresses from every time I’d signed on since 2009 (though I’ve had an account since 2005). There was a list of advertising topics for which I could be targeted––some accurate, some more like divination than data science—alongside content I’d created: chat transcripts, event listings, photographs, videos.

I was startled to find dozens of videos I had deleted before posting or sharing with friends, an embarrassment of outtakes. There I was, lower-resolution and smoother-skinned, staring at the computer camera and adjusting my bangs, looking for a good angle from my dorm room, my parents’ kitchen, a temp job. It was like watching B-roll for a documentary about my insecurities. (Facebook has since announced that the inclusion of deleted videos was the result of a bug, and said it was planning to discard the data from its servers.) The videos were jarring to discover—and suggested questionable data-retention practices at Facebook—but they were not entirely unwelcome. In an era of personal brands and social-media curation, I was amused, and a little wistful, to have a realistic glimpse of what I had been like as an awkward college student.

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