Dear FB, My Data, Please!

Published on . Takes about 3 minutes to read.

I’ve been following Europe Verses Facebook for quite some time now and very much approve of the notion. I requested a copy of my data about a month ago and received a dry reply today. Not surprisingly, I was directed to use the profile download tool to get a copy of “all the data that we believe necessary to comply with the requirements of data protection law”.

Like hell. I’m more interested on what goes on behind the scenes. Luckily, there’s a dumbed-down version on how to persuade Facebook to do peoples bidding.

Now to the month long wait, again…

Email from Facebook to Ando Roots

You can access your data immediately any time, free of charge. In this download, we’ve included all the data that we believe necessary to comply with the requirements of data protection law. Please note that this tool provides you with data that is currently held in your profile (timeline).

Please note that we are currently undergoing an audit by our European data protection regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commission.  This includes an examination of the categories of data that should be provided in response to a subject access request. This may result in changes to the download tool in the future.

Note: Facebook has made it more and more difficult to send an access request since the beginning of your campaign. The legal deadline of 40 days is currently ignored. Users get rerouted to a “download tool” that only allows to get a copy your own profile (about 22 data categories) but does not provide you the data Facebook is collecting and storing in the background (about 35 data categories). (from

Update: I didn’t hear back from Facebook after the legal deadline so I wrote to them on paper. A bit more difficult to ignore now. P.S! You owe me 1.09 €.

Update (26. Jan 2012) I just received another email from Facebook about my data request(s)… which, by the way, doesn’t specify if it’s a response to the online form (my 2nd attempt) or the above handwritten letter. The email says, in the nicest of terms, that I should find all the information I want by using their online data download tool.

/--/ Please note that as this reply contains all the information necessary for you to exercise your subject access rights we will not enter into further correspondence about your specific data through this email address. /--/ We've built a convenient self-service tool to offer people who use Facebook the opportunity to access the personal data we hold about them in accordance with the provisions of EU Directive 95/46/EC. /--/  In this download, we've included all the data that we believe necessary to comply with the requirements of data protection law. - Annotated excerpts from the email

However, from

Facebook is sending out e-mails in which they claim that you can download all data via the “account settings” page on their web page. In fact you only get a minimal amount of data when downloading this file (about 22 data categories instead of more than 76!)

I’ll have to wait some more until 40 days from my third data request (1: online form, 2: e-mail to [email protected], 3: handwritten letter) pass, then I can (and most likely will) file a complaint to the Irish DPC.

Update Received another letter from Facebook, by electronic mail, basically thanking me for my interest and directing me to use their download data tool… again. I’m not going to waste the effort on filing a complaint on them, but I am terribly disappointed.

From their own policies:

“You will delete all data you receive from us concerning a user if the user asks you to do so, and will provide an easily accessible mechanism for users to make such a request.” -, section II, paragraph 12

As far as I know, the first is impossible with their own service and the second - really darn hard as the above saga proved. Way to set an example…