It’s OK, you don’t have to answer this rather bizarre question (of which more later…).
Try these instead:
Would you like to know what you’d look like if you were the opposite sex? In a film of your life, which celebrity would play you? What would your face look like on the cover of a magazine?
The answer to these and many other questions can be answered with a click of a mouse, on any one of thousands of quizzes which appear on everyone’s Facebook feed. And they’re just harmless fun – aren’t they?
Well, unless you really do have a burning desire to find out what career you had in a previous life, or which Hollywood A Lister you are destined to spend time with on a desert island, we’d suggest you avoid this seemingly innocent pastime.
Of course, this kind of data-mining (whereby companies pay to access the data you have perhaps unwittingly given out by accessing these quizzes) is nothing new. In fact, we’ve warned against this before, but it seems that this may just be the tip of a rather nasty iceberg.
Given the recent developments with Facebook and its data-selling revelations, we thought it time we took a closer look at our own personal Facebook data.
We’ve known that Facebook – and other social media sites – retains and archives some of our personal information. That is a given these days. It is, after all, big business. But we have always been careful with our security settings, careful with the permissions we give as to what can be accessed and what can’t.
So we were in for a shock when we decided to download the information Facebook keeps on us.
The process was simple: we clicked on our Facebook settings page, clicked on the link that said “Download a copy of your Facebook data”, entered our password, and within a few minutes we received an email with a link where we could view the report.
The results were an eye-opener to say the least.
Not only were the phone numbers of all our friends listed, but all our personal messages and shared photos (even ones we know for a fact we had deleted) were there to be seen, along with documents we had sent on Messenger, audio and video files – in fact pretty much our entire Facebook activity over the last six years.
It is perhaps the storing of all our contacts’ phone numbers that seems the most worrying. In some cases, we didn’t even have their mobile number ourselves.
The amount of personal information Facebook holds about us is truly astonishing. And extremely concerning, especially as -given the nature of our business – we are perhaps
more careful than most online.
And you can be certain that this kind of data archiving and possible sharing and selling is not confined to Facebook. Everything we access online leaves a digital footprint. Our browsing data, how long we spend on a web page, what decisions we make online, what we buy and how we buy it, which car we drive, where we live, the job we do – all of this and more can be recorded and archived somewhere in the depths of the web. And companies are prepared to pay large sums to access all of this data.
We’re not suggesting you avoid the internet altogether. Let’s face it, it would be pretty much impossible to do so, not to mention inconvenient. But we would suggest you take a look at what information is being held on you, and perhaps have a look at your own internet security in a bit more detail.
It’s also really important to read carefully what you are actually agreeing to when you sign up to Facebook or any social media site. There is usually a checklist of what you are agreeing to, but few of us take much notice of it, and even fewer remove permissions. But perhaps we should.
It’s been suggested for some time now that Facebook has “eyes and ears” – reports have been circulating in the mainstream media for a while now, about how our smart phones and built in cameras could be used to listen in on our conversations and then target us with adverts or campaigns we might be interested in. We once saw an interview with Mark Zuckerberg himself, and noticed that on the desk behind him, his laptop had a piece of sticky tape over the camera lens. If even Facebook’s creator is trying to avoid detection, then maybe so should we?
One last cautionary tale for you: a couple of days ago, we went out to dinner at a local Indian restaurant with a group of friends. The conversation turned to vegetarianism, and one of our group regaled us with a recipe for something called Aquafaba ( a kind of chickpea brine which can be whipped up to make things like meringues – well this is South West London, what did you expect?).
The next morning, we were all active on our group Messenger comparing hangovers, when one of our group shocked us all with her revelation: on her Facebook feed that morning, a video advertisement appeared for a recipe site. The video showed how to make Aquafaba meringues. Coincidence? We’ll leave you to decide…