No one is surprised that every website you sign into is collecting everything shy of your DNA and selling it to anyone with $10 and a business card. We all know that with each service we’ve signed up to on the internet, we’ve made a Faustian bargain with some unscrupulous nerds who will scrape and analyse every click and glance we make in an attempt to construct a complete picture of a human being to whom things can be advertised with terrifying accuracy. We are all across this.
In saying that, it’s still pretty weird to see it all laid out.
Like a lot of people are doing following the controversy over what Zuckerberg is doing with our precious data, I decided to download my Facebook data to see exactly what they’ve got on me. This was a terrible idea. I cannot caution you strongly enough: do not look at the things you said and did five to ten years ago – you will experience nothing but shame, regret, and anguish.
The only thing that made me feel mildly better about the hideously embarrassing things I said to people in Facebook messages in 2010 was looking at my ad profile. Your ad profile is what’s used to determine what advertising is shown to you, allowing advertisers to specifically seek out the sort of people that are likely to click on their ads. It’s built up from what ads you click on on Facebook, the pages you like, the posts and replies you make and engage with on Facebook, and your “activity on websites and apps off of Facebook” (which is vague and somewhat menacing but probably has to do with your cookies).
Obviously, because every single thing we do online is tracked, quantified, and parsed, the profile, on the whole, is pretty accurate, but the outliers in my profile paint a portrait of a very strange man. Take, for instance, this sequence:
Pictured: A man who likes moving pictures and top 40 radio but does NOT like Vatican City or Abkhazia.
Popular music? Sure, I guess that would certainly be useful to touring companies flogging Ed Sheeran tickets. “Video” seems incredibly nebulous, but I must admit, I am a fan. Which bloody advertisers want to know that I am apparently interested in “Members states of the United Nations“, though? Of what possible use is it that I am (allegedly) interested in only the 193 member states of the UN, to the exclusion of the two observer states and the six (contested) non-member states? How did it determine this? I have so many questions.
Pictured: The perfect afternoon.
Alright, I will concede that the beer one is pretty spot on, and that if someone offered me a massage accompanied by some soft rock, I certainly wouldn’t complain, but I cannot imagine ever telling anyone that “massage” is one of my interests. It is my personal belief that anyone who ever says that it is one of theirs is either a masseuse or a swinger.
Pictured: Sorry, what was that second one again?
Ah, that classic trio: the sad, darkly comedic stylings of Yoni Wolf, expensive thongs, and proletarian control of the means of production. This one might be the most flattering thing that Facebook has decided about me, in that it implies that I have the disposable income to not just get the cheapest thongs at Kmart.
I don’t even know where to start with this. Just one dingo, not multiple dingoes? I live in Queensland, so I’m barely even interested in beanies, let alone in something woolly that covers my entire face. I also rarely do bank robberies, the only other circumstance that warrants a balaclava. I am a professional hot air balloon pilot, though, so I guess that makes sense (editor’s note: this is not true).
Pictured: The three pillars of success.
I mean, sure.
Pictured: There’s a good movie somewhere in this.
I would say my interest in SBS started waning sometime after I turned 18 and stopped needing to watch weird, male nudity–heavy European films at 2am, and my interest in martial arts definitely peaked when I was 8 and did one session of karate before deciding it was not for me, the indoor boy. I have never been interested in Paris.
Pictured: Toilet store and bourbon.
In summary: apparently, I am a bethonged, Will Ferrell–quoting Marxist residing either in Paris or rural Kentucky and love nothing more than hopping in my hot air balloon with my pet dingo, disguising my face with a balaclava, fanging on some Rod Stewart, and thinking about nearly every country while smashing a beer. Sounds pretty sick actually.
If you want to check your own file out, just go to your Facebook settings and click “Download a copy of your Facebook data.” at the bottom there. It takes a little while to process and the file can be upwards of a gig or so, so it might take a little while.