Facebook founder and boss Mark Zuckerberg is probably one of the world’s most hated men, and not just because he looks like a glass-eyed troll who hasn’t seen sunlight in years and recoils from human touch.
Zuckerberg testified for two days in the U.S. senate over questions about Facebook’s casual use of users’ personal data. He looked worried about the questions, but his fears were at least somewhat unfounded. For example, ancient Senator Orrin Hatch asked Zuckerberg – and I’m not making this up – “how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” Zuckerberg paused for a thunderstruck second, then answered: “We run ads.” (Just FYI, Orrin, Facebook took in more than $40 billion in revenue last year.)
Facebook, the once friendly monster he created (or co-created, or stole, depending on who you talk to) is under relentless attack. Large corporations have been harvesting Facebook data and using it for purposes of pure evil – selling stuff to Facebook users. Oh, and Russia used Facebook data to get Donald Trump elected, so there’s that.
Now, I’d like to calm the Facebook hysteria for a moment by stating a few basic truths:
- A few years ago, Facebook didn’t exist. It only began in 2004, and we somehow survived the previous zillions of years without it.
- It’s free, so what do you expect?
- It’s not necessary.
That’s third point is most important. If Facebook disappeared today – just vanished completely – nobody would die. Buildings would not fall down. No plague would sweep the world. The worst that would happen is that we would lose contact with people we really didn’t want to keep in touch with, but were too gutless to turn down their friend request. I think somehow we would survive.
That being said, I kind of like Facebook. I’ve been able to reconnect, however distantly, with members of my old crew from my Red Deer Advocate days. I’m getting to the age now where I don’t only want to know what they’re up to, but whether they’re still alive. I’ve also learned that there is another Maurice Tougas, who is a partner in Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Mass. Also, I like to share interesting things I read with others, and Facebook is great for that kind of thing (just ask Russia).
I am not a heavy Facebook user. I joined up on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007, at 5:52 p.m. I know the exact time because Facebook has kindly kept track of it. And as I discovered, Facebook does a great job of keeping track of stuff.
To find out how much Facebook knows about me, I downloaded my entire timeline. And you can do it, too.
All you have to do is go to your Facebook page. In the top right hand corner, click on that little arrow. You’ll see Settings on the list. That will take you to a General Account Settings, and at the bottom of that list you will find a line that says ‘Download a copy of your Facebook settings’. Just click on that, follow the instructions, and Facebook will send a list of everything – EVERYTHING – you’ve ever done on Facebook, and interestingly, who’s interested in you.
You will find everything you’ve posted to Facebook. Happily, I find nothing incriminating; I prefer quality over quantity in my postings. Or at least, I think it’s quality. And I don’t think there’s anything incriminating.
Every conversation you’ve ever had with anyone is there. The photos are all there. All of your ‘friends’ are there, including the date you friended them. There is also the entire list of every friend request you declined, and everyone you unfriended (de-friended?). The lists are all surprisingly long.
It’s all interesting (to me, anyway; it would be mind-numbingly boring to anyone else). But what’s really interesting is the list of ads you have clicked on (I’m happy to say that list is very small), and the very strange, very long list described as “Advertisers who uploaded a contact list with your info”, which I assume this means my name appeared on someone’s contact list. Here is part of the list.
- Ansel Elgort (an actor who starred in the movie Baby Driver)
- Sasha Sloan (a singer I’m unfamiliar with)
- AMA – Alberta Motor Association
- A Series of Unfortunate Events
- Bubble Witch 3 Saga
- Fitbit UK & Ireland
- Dallas Mavericks (no idea why)
- Strong Black Lead (no idea what this is)
- Nurse Loves Farmer (a blogger I am unfamiliar with)
- Sawmill Prime Rib & Steak House
- Netflix Family
- Edmonton Oilers
- M&M Food Market
- Santa Clarita Diet
- Competition Crazy UK
- AMA Rewards
- Candy Crush Saga
- El Chapo (not THE El Chapo, I hope)
- Alexa & Katie (apparently a Netflix show I have never heard of or seen)
- Brother Canada
- Black Mirror
- Nina Nesbitt (huh?)
- Jake La Furia (huh again?)
- Value PBS
- O Mecanismo
- Competition Crazy NZ
- Altered Carbon
- UK Offers
- STARS Air Ambulance
- Facebook Marketplace Community
- Sports Illustrated
- Charlotte Lawrence
- Canadian Tire
- International Living
- New Zealand Offers
- Romeo Santos
- The End Of The F***ing World (another Netflix show I’ve never seen)
- The Week Of
- Troye Sivan
- Vistaprint Studio
- Sport Chek
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Justin Trudeau
- The New York Times
- J Balvin (a Columbian singer)
- Liberal Party of Canada | Parti libéral du Canada
- Entertainment Weekly
- Panoply Media
- United Wireless Arena
- Nicky Jam
- Farm Heroes Saga
- Live Nation Concerts
- President’s Choice Financial
- Don Wheaton YMCA
- AIR MILES Canada
- Everyday Health
- Real Simple
- Ali Shaheed Muhammad (another rapper, apparently)
- Microphone Check
I would estimate at least 75% of there “advertisers who uploaded a contact list with my info” are entirely unknown to me. Some I get (companies I have used or thought about using), but actors I don’t know? TV shows I don’t watch? Singers I have never even heard of?
My favorite “advertiser who uploaded a contact list with my info” is the lovely and talented rapper Trippie Redd, pictured here. I cannot imagine any conceivable connection between Mr. Redd, anyone I know, and myself. And I don’t know what Mr. Redd would be advertising, although I can guess that it’s not toothpaste.
It’s all very baffling.