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A couple of months ago, 24-year-old Austrian law student Max Schrems requested Facebook for all his personal data. The European arm of Facebook, based in Dublin, Ireland, was obliged to turn over this information, as they had to follow an European law that requires any entity to provide full access to data about an individual, should this individual personally request for it. Accordingly, Max received a CD containing about 1,222 pages (PDF files), including chats he had deleted more than a year ago, "pokes" dating back to 2008, invitations, and hundreds of other details.

Berlin-based newspaper taz.de decided to visualize [taz.de] different aspects of this data: the magnitude of the 1.222 unique pages, the exact times Max logged in and wrote messages, the times of day messages he sent or received, Max's friend network, the locations of the pictures he took in Vienna, and the most popular tags of Max's messages. While the visualizations by themselves might not stand out, they do reveal the huge amount of digital traces one leaves, even when they were originally purposively 'deleted' or discarded.

In addition, this event has triggered a wider initiative called Europe versus Facebook, which aims for more transparency and control of personal Facebook data.

By the way, how can you get access to your own data? Facebook has made it increasingly difficult to do so. What was previously a simple online form, must now happen via email or snail mail. All the instructions can be found here.

Are you curious how the data looks like Facebook sends back to you? At the bottom of this page, you can download some examples.



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Fri 09 Dec 2011 at 3:53 PM
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