Deleting Most of My Facebook

Steps to reduce Facebook’s grasp on my data.

Alex Waters
Aug 28 · 4 min read

The bargain that Facebook expects is nuts. It goes something like this:

FB: Give me data and watch these ads — and then you can efficiently connect with the people in your life.

Me: How much data do I have to give for that?

FB: All that you can muster and forever. Including the data that you give without your knowledge.

Me: That’s a terrible arrangement.


Archive

I used Facebook’s archive tool, which misled me into thinking that I can download all of my data — but more on that later.

  1. In the top right corner of FB there is a carat or downward arrow. I clicked it for a dropdown menu and selected ‘settings’. (https://www.facebook.com/settings)
  2. Click the left-hand menu bar there is a tab called ‘Your Facebook Information’ (https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=your_facebook_information)
  3. Click ‘Download Your Information’.
  4. I selected ‘Date Range: All of my data, Format: HTML, Media Quality: High’
  5. I selected all of the tick boxes, and finally clicked create file.

After waiting 30 minutes for it to spin…

6. I clicked ‘Available Files’ and then ‘Download’. This downloaded a 120mb .zip file.

7. Most modern OSX and Windows systems will be able to open this .zip file by default. It is just a compressed file-type. Inside the .zip file: there were several categories grouped as sub-folders.

Rather than trusting FB to deliver my data, I felt an urge to double check.

Distrust and verify…

I quickly realized that despite there being a photos_and_videos folder — it did not contain all of the photos that I expected. All of my tagged photos are missing without any indication.

Tagged photos (i.e. photos I haven’t uploaded but where I’ve been tagged) make up about 80% of my photos on Facebook.

Unfortunately, there are no tools within Facebook’s advanced settings that allow me to obtain these pictures of myself.

Upon Googling, I found that people recommend right clicking + downloading each of the photos where I have been tagged as the solution. That would take much longer than my attention span affords.

(There is also an IFTTT integration, but it doesn’t apply to past photos.)

For the technically inclined, there is this excellent FOSS Python project: https://github.com/harismuneer/Ultimate-Facebook-Scraper

For non-developers and lazy developers (me) there is this Google Chrome Extension:
https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/downalbum/cgjnhhjpfcdhbhlcmmjppicjmgfkppok

Disclaimer: I have not done a code review for either of these projects. I tend to trust well-reviewed open source projects.

Chrome extensions have the benefit of being, at minimum, open review. So if the getkelvin.com team had put anything sketchy in their extension — it could be easily discovered.


DELETE

Now that we have archived our data: it’s time to DELETE THE FACEBOOK. But wait…

https://www.facebook.com/help/delete_account

Do I trust FB to delete all of my data from their servers now and going forward?


Compromise

Instead of “deleting” Facebook — maybe there is a way to maximize the benefits, while minimizing the amount of personal data that gets appropriated.

Until I can have a fair and transparent agreement with FB — my plan is as follows:

  1. Treat all status updates as public statements
  2. Don’t upload photos / videos
  3. Deny tagging requests
  4. Attempt to remove as much old data as is possible
  5. Max-out the privacy settings

Number four is a doozy. It would be silly to assume that FB removes data from their servers when someone deletes an old photo. Instead, the intention with this rule is to limit 3rd party access. I found two solutions:

A Python Script:
https://github.com/weskerfoot/DeleteFB

A Google Chrome Extension:
https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/social-book-post-manager/ljfidlkcmdmmibngdfikhffffdmphjae

I ended up using both tools to be sure that I purged most of my 1yr+ data. Although, it was somewhat sad and nostalgic to see my Facebook past fly by.

Fortunately, most of it survives in the archive of my data that Facebook let me download in the first section. A tepid tip of the hat to Facebook for that one semi-solid feature.


Credit to a close friend and colleague for his help in shaping my views on this topic.

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