Hack Your Own Facebook Data with This Spooky Tool

Facebook knows about your past, present, and likely future. But how do they know this information? Data Selfie is a creepy new tool that will give you an answer. The free plugin provides a gateway into the data mining and predictive analytics that is used by Facebook to create your online identity. 

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Facebook knows about your past, present, and likely future. The world's largest social network has a tremendous level of insight into your life, but HOW do they gain this insight?


Data Selfie is a spooky new browser extension that can give you an answer.

The free plugin tracks all the digital breadcrumbs you would leave behind when using Facebook (hint: it's a lot of breadcrumbs) and creates your personality profile. The goal of Data Selfie is to have a heightened awareness about the data you give out and a better understanding of how Facebook's machine learning algorithms are likely employed when profiling you.

Data Selfie - Chrome extension from DATA X on Vimeo.

While what you see is not the actual data that Facebook is using, the tool gives you a behind-the-scenes understanding of how profiling is done. Given the rise of psychometric micro-targeting utilized by advertisers and political campaigns, it is prudent to have a better grasp into the tremendous amount of data collection and crunching that happens with every comment, post, and like. 

"The tool explores our relationship to the online data we leave behind as a result of media consumption and social networks - the information you share consciously and unconsciously."-DataSelfie.it

Given the significant amount of personal data that is given in order to see how Facebook's profiling likely works, Data Selfie assures users that the content you see stays private. Data collected is only stored on your devices, with no databases or cloud storage. Data Selfie is a project created by Regina Flores Mir and Hang Do Thi Duc, with the initial seed funding through NYC Media Lab Combine Program.

Why Is This Important?

The average American Facebook user is on the platform for over 50 minutes a day. There are are a lot of interactions that happen in that amount of time, and a lot of data that can be crunched into fine-tuning a personality profile. As a Facebook user, you have a rich and detailed online identity available to the company. Data Selfie provides a gateway into the data mining and predictive analytics that is used to create that online identity. 

Facebook, like most social media companies and popular apps, utilizes the free-in-exchange-for-data business model. Instead of giving Facebook a monthly fee, you are giving over your data. Whereas in a typical business transaction you are fully cognizant of the value you are giving (i.e. I will give you $200 in exchange for your couch), the value users give through data is often shrouded in mystery.   

Data Selfie allows you to have a better picture as to what you are giving in exchange for using the platform. The data you are submitting both intentionally and unintentionally is extremely valuable to Facebook (and other companies). Data Selfie offers a needed level of transparency with the data-exchange process and profiling used by advertisers. 

Here is the million dollar question: will insight into how your digital footprint is created cause you to walk differently online? 

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