Look upon your data, ye mighty, and despair
March 28, 2018 3:02 AM   Subscribe

Want to freak yourself out? I'm gonna show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realising it Big Data exposeur Dylan Curran shows us just how much is out there. TL;DR- it's worse than you thought.
posted by I_Love_Bananas (102 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
 
This understates it considerably on the FB side; it's by no means at all inclusive of all information they hold. Post GDPR requests will be much more revealing.
posted by jaduncan at 3:22 AM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


A more specific example: logged in users have FB buttons ping back on every site they visit, and the chances that they don't correlate that with the login cookie are insanely low. FB is not the kind of company to throw tracking data away.
posted by jaduncan at 3:25 AM on March 28, 2018 [7 favorites]


I must be doing something right, because my data downloads from both Facebook and Google contain basically zilch, despite daily use. So I can fairly confidently report that if you spend half an hour turning off everything off, you'll reduce your social media data leakage to what a reasonable person would expect. The downside is that sometimes I wonder if I'm giving away too much personal information in in-person encounters, like there's some kind of physical world tracking cookie following me around or something...
posted by pipeski at 3:37 AM on March 28, 2018 [15 favorites]


...which I suppose there is, every time I buy something on a card or pass a surveillance camera...
posted by pipeski at 3:38 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


Pipeski: You can believe both companies when they start to actually respond to subject data requests. What they are showing you is not based on a legal requirement to do so, so it is a subset.
posted by jaduncan at 3:50 AM on March 28, 2018 [19 favorites]


I suspect that this sort of tracking wouldn't be available for user download
posted by talos at 4:01 AM on March 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


Similar experience to pipeski with regard to FB: I downloaded the archive — it was very slim, and salted liberally with nonsense (I don’t, for instance, actually live at 3.14159265359 Crescent Court and my main hobby is not really walrus sanding).

Clearly jaduncan is right, because it seems unlikely FB doesn’t know my proper street address. I don’t know whether it believes I sand walruses, but probably not. Do we think FB has an algorithm for tagging content it has low confidence in due to silliness? (If I were customer of FB that’s what I’d hope!)

Once I get to my desk I’m going to try the links from the article and see how far up my virtual anatomy Google has its snout.
posted by Construction Concern at 4:20 AM on March 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


I don't know what all the fuss is, honestly. In the future when Google replaces all of us with robots, my AI will be fully primed and ready to go. I'm just glad I'm able to offer them a seamless user experience.
posted by phunniemee at 4:24 AM on March 28, 2018 [14 favorites]


Curran also wrote this up for The Guardian as an article.
posted by Kattullus at 4:26 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


I do not like being tracked and monitored. At all. So I'm fairly hot on turning off histories on google and other places. I deleted my FB account many years ago, primarily because of the privacy concerns. Even so, I periodically check my google activity and find that somewhere along the way, something has been pressed or some terms and conditions agreed to or something clicked that shouldn't have been clicked on this or that account and there it is, finding me on a train from X to Y or recording my youtube viewing habits (there are all these fuzzy walruses I'd like to pet, see) or... something. It's labyrinthine. It's disturbing.

I switch from thinking it's deliberate and conniving, purposefully complicated to ensure that pieces of data leak somewhere however much I don't want this, to deciding it's more a technical function of a company like Google having badly linked tendrils in as many online realms as possible.

> my main hobby is not really walrus sanding

Well there goes that business plan....
posted by giraffeneckbattle at 5:01 AM on March 28, 2018 [13 favorites]


This guy put his PGP private key on Google Drive? wtf? Does GMail do PGP-signed mail but require you to put the private key on Google Drive or something?
posted by XMLicious at 5:03 AM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


I looked at my Facebook download yesterday. The only thing in it I found interesting was the list of advertisers that have my contact info. I ad-block aggressively and I'm sure I have never clicked on a Facebook ad on purpose. yet hundreds of advertisers have my contact info.
posted by COD at 5:07 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think the issue is he has a private key on Google drive which was deleted. But since it's Google, it wasn't deleted - there it is!
posted by parki at 5:08 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


I downloaded my Facebook data the other day. It contained almost nothing that couldn't be seen by Facebook friends of mine. It was really interesting because I've always been leery of the company and have never installed the app on my phone, have never installed messenger, have never given them my phone number, use an ad blocker, etc etc.

It actually seems to work. Looking at the advertising data I'd say they have no idea who I am really, much of it was laughably wrong, to the point of the absurd.

Google though...
posted by deadwax at 5:09 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


I recently read The Social Ties That Unbind by An Xiao, something that struck me is that Tumblr is one of the very few internet places left that still allows each user to run multiple blogs/identities, almost everywhere else (including Metafilter) pushes very hard the idea of one user = one account. No doubt driven by the focus on collecting metadata.
posted by Lanark at 5:15 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


Don't both twitter and Instagram allow multiple identities?
posted by deadwax at 5:25 AM on March 28, 2018


On the other hand, thanks to the link to my complete Google history, I learned today that my nine-year-old has been sneaking the iPad to bed and watching Overwatch videos at 3am. Which explains why he's been complaining so much lately about being sleepy. So that's useful information to have.

Greetings from the Department of Mixed Feelings!

(Now I have to figure out how to bust him without letting him know how I know to bust him)
posted by ook at 5:27 AM on March 28, 2018 [47 favorites]


I think the issue is he has a private key on Google drive which was deleted. But since it's Google, it wasn't deleted - there it is!

Yes, that's the point he's trying to make, but what I'm asking is why you would even upload a private key in a plain text file to a cloud service in the first place? Maybe right next to all_my_unencrypted_passwords_and_credit_card_numbers.txt? It seems like exactly the reason Google would hang on to everything you upload. It's like leaving a steak on the floor next to a dog and being surprised when it gets eaten.

Also, per the map of Ireland, he appears to own a TARDIS.
posted by XMLicious at 5:31 AM on March 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately, even those of us without FB accounts are still likely contributing data, lest we forget.

Legitimate question though: why the panic now all of a sudden? Wasn't what Snowden told us shocking enough?
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:43 AM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


On tumblr, sideblogs are just sockpuppets attached to your primary account. Oath nee Yahoo knows what you're up to, even if your readers don't. Tumblr's enabling of sockpuppets that can be used for driving certain kinds of harassment is one of the reasons I don't participate there.

Legitimate question though: why the panic now all of a sudden? Wasn't what Snowden told us shocking enough?

News media has a short attention span and likes to reinvent the wheel every few years. Also, Facebook has been facing increasing criticism since the last election, so Cambridge Analytica and the app permissions news is serving as a last straw for people who didn't bail after Snowden.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 5:49 AM on March 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


I don't have a Google or a YouTube account, but I do have one on Facebook. What are the links to see that?
(The pictures in the article don't show up for me in Firefox, but I didn't see any Facebook links when I viewed the article on another browser)
posted by MtDewd at 6:05 AM on March 28, 2018


From the article:
"mine was roughly 600mb, which is roughly 400,000 Word documents"

That's about a kilobyte and a half per Word document. That seems awful low.
posted by Dysk at 6:14 AM on March 28, 2018 [7 favorites]


Legitimate question though: why the panic now all of a sudden? Wasn't what Snowden told us shocking enough?
Denial. When it's the NSA (for example) you can reassure yourself that only criminals or terrorists need to worry about surveillance. Facebook hits closer to home.

Plus the usual. To get to where we are now, we had to go through all the things we went through in the past. Minds are hard to change.
posted by Horkus at 6:15 AM on March 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


deadwax, the difference is that multiple accounts require multiple logins. Tumblr links them to a single login with one main blog - this means that if you have a PWPfic sideblog and accidentally like a post there, it will look like your main blog liked it.

I tend to think that the pertinent question is more "do they know what to do with this massive amount of data, and does it substantially change their behavior towards consumers?" There is the ethical argument for privacy, but insofar as we've already lost that battle, then how do we make sure that whatever predictive software is at work doesn't figure out how to do its job well? Some of this probably looks a bit like neoliberal responsibilization - keep your own data safe/private, clean out your social media accounts, etc - but I'm still obsessively deleting my FB history.
posted by ahundredjarsofsky at 6:22 AM on March 28, 2018


I'm skeptical of the claim that the existence of sideblogs on Tumblr is a significant vector for harassment. Asks, submits, and likes are all tied to the main blog, the (crappy) block function applies to all of a user's blogs, and it is not possible redesignate a sideblog as "main" or vice versa. The most common complaint I hear is about "anon hate", and you don't even need a Tumblr account to submit "anon hate". I never used special extensions like Missing E or whatever folks are using for blacklisting today, but I'm sure those extensions have additional functionality as well.

MtDewd, the pictures that you are missing do not contain instructions for how to find this information on Facebook. However, the Guardian article version of this post that Kattullus linked does have a link to what I assume is the relevant page.
posted by inconstant at 6:31 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


Denial. When it's the NSA (for example) you can reassure yourself that only criminals or terrorists need to worry about surveillance. Facebook hits closer to home.

To both build on and invert this: I keep thinking back to Agre's surveillance vs capture dynamic. Popular media has for decades provided a lot of ways for us to conceptualise surveillance, and that's long been the discussion framework for data collection and use, but Big Brother/NSA/My FBI Agent memes are all poor fits, as analogies, for the types of data collection we're dealing with. We're dealing with capture, which is not government-sponsored and centralised, which is less about CCTV and more about metadata. There is no FBI Agent, and Facebook and Instagram aren't listening to your conversations through your microphone, but these are the only ways most people have had to verbalise their concerns, and since they don't really properly describe the problem accurately, it's easy to dismiss concerns so described, or to miss the fact that there is a problem.

Because we've moved from surveillance to capture, Facebook and Instagram don't need to listen through our microphones; we already tell them more than they could ever so glean, and that data is in a more readily-extractable format. It's been very difficult to explain that. The reporting from the past few weeks helps give context people need to understand how data collection works, and shows them that it works on everyone. People may be misinterpreting what Cambridge Analytica 'means' for them, personally, and may lack the context to see that it's not just CA, and that it's been going on for years, and that it's not just an issue for social media use, but now they have a framework and a set of terms to use, one that can't be misunderstood as 'yeah but only criminals have to worry' or dismissed with 'lol government spies.'
posted by halation at 6:36 AM on March 28, 2018 [16 favorites]


My google ad preferences show that I have an interest in the Balearic islands. I don't even know what that is but I don't want to google it in case it gives it a stronger positive signal.

I would delete it as a preference, but as a group, the 100 or so odd topics are so far off what I am actually interested in, I wonder if it's better to just throw them off than to make a blank slate. (They did get 'cats' right, but I'm guessing that's a default setting for everyone?)
posted by like_neon at 6:39 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


Balearic islands
Ibiza and Mallorca -- it's possible that your tastes in music suggest you'd want to party there, or that your travel interests include nice beaches.
posted by halation at 6:41 AM on March 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


I would like to take this opportunity to point out that Duck Duck Go search is pretty good. I don't think it's quite as good as Google search was in the 2000s, but neither is modern Google search. I switched some years ago to Firefox + Duck Duck Go, and I haven't been tempted to change back at all. If you do want to search with Google occasionally, it's just a few clicks or taps away anyway.

To my surprise, I find other Google services (Calendar, Maps, YouTube) harder to replace.
posted by Western Infidels at 6:44 AM on March 28, 2018 [19 favorites]


These articles always start with "OMG, Google knows everywhere you've been!"

I KNOW. I really really like it.
I've been trying to get them to do it properly for 10 years.

Also, the inclusion of Google Takeout isn't going to creep me out. Helping you download your data archives is an objectively good thing isn't it?
Like, sure there are many problems with all this, but this article takes a really weird tone with it.

"you're not a terrorist? Then how come you were googling ISIS?"

This isn't a Google issue. This is a government overreach issue.

Work at Google and you're suspicious of your wife? Perfect, just look up her location and search history for the last ten years

Can a Google employee do this?
Can a Google employee do this easily without being fired?
I strongly doubt it.

I actually have my location shared with my wife at all times. It's very helpful. Also, I get an email every month reminding me about that fact.

There's a lot of issues with how personal information is used, misused and stored, but most of the examples in this article are the actual use case of the product and are handled responsibly.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:46 AM on March 28, 2018 [8 favorites]


Can a Google employee do this easily without being fired?

Depending on how upset/paranoid/etc. the employee is, "but I might get fired" may not be much of a deterrent.
posted by Gev at 6:54 AM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


"you're not a terrorist? Then how come you were googling ISIS?"
This isn't a Google issue. This is a government overreach issue.
It is both. Government only wishes it had the freedom to deploy the surveillance tools that Google, Facebook and the rest have created. Government (not just our "friendly" government, but neutral and unfriendly foreign governments, too) will try to grab as much as it can.

But even if government wasn't pulling data out of GOOG and FB, they are effectively the next level of government. Facebook mediates social interactions online for a significant fraction of the world's population. Google login is quickly becoming the defacto authentication standard for corporate services. If Google decides tomorrow that I'm a non-person and locks my accounts, I wouldn't be able to log in to any of the systems I use at work. Government can say things about undocumented workers and maybe conduct a few raids. Google can make you a non-entity.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:54 AM on March 28, 2018 [12 favorites]


I'm happy to report that Google doesn't have location or search history for me, and according to them I like about 10 things and hate nothing. Huzzah!

Also maybe the author should have censored the fact that they searched for Zach Braff?
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:54 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


There's kind of a brilliant conceptual way of dealing with all this data collection: more noise. For example, if you could run a program that would randomly search for words across Google, it would wreck the accuracy of the results.

Or better yet, if that program was bundled with a worm that infected multiple computers, and spread, it would invalidate all data.

Just saying.
posted by iamck at 6:54 AM on March 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


more noise. For example, if you could run a program that would randomly search for words across Google

the internet's thought of that, though i'm not sure how effective either has been or can be.
posted by halation at 7:01 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


more noise

For a while in emails to my wife we'd persistently reference farming implements and tractors to see if we could get google to advertise them to us.
Given how much of my data google has and how bad their profile is on me I think I'm basically doing that as a single user.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:03 AM on March 28, 2018


It is kinda weird living in a prohibition state and knowing google knows exactly when I visited a marijuana dispensary in Washington.
posted by Shutter at 7:10 AM on March 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm skeptical of the claim that the existence of sideblogs on Tumblr is a significant vector for harassment. Asks, submits, and likes are all tied to the main blog, the (crappy) block function applies to all of a user's blogs, and it is not possible redesignate a sideblog as "main" or vice versa.

While blocks happen on a user basis, a significant number of sideblogs are "anti" or "discourse" blogs dedicated to identifying, "calling out," and organizing attacks on people who hold a particular opinion. Which likely isn't a big deal if your "anti" blogging is in the realm of fandom shipping (although tumblr dogpiles have well-deserved infamy), but also includes anti-trans and anti-bisexual sideblogs as well as other targeted groups.

My experience was waking up to over 200 notes on my feed from a dozen different accounts because I posted a link to an article about biphobia, with additional notes trickling in over the course of about a week. That's a small example. I've seen attacks involving thousands of notes from over 100 different actors.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:18 AM on March 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


I would like to take this opportunity to point out that Duck Duck Go search is pretty good.

For the longest time I was using startpage/ixquick, because I liked that it was giving me what Google would have provided, minus the tracking. But then one day I thought, what the hell, I'm still supporting Google indirectly, time to pull the plug. DDG is good enough for the vast majority of people I'd say, it's just inertia holding people back from switching off of Google.

I don't think it's quite as good as Google search was in the 2000s, but neither is modern Google search.

This. One million times this.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 7:19 AM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


It's quite typical for me to search for things so I can answer a question on ask.me. My facebook interest are incredibly varied as a result. I use an adblocker, and on occasions when I don't, facebook is hellish with intrusive ads. I rarely choose to view videos, but fb pushed them at me, hard, and browsers enable it. I downloaded my fb archive; it wasn't all that revealing except that the list of things I've liked or followed is huge, and editing that stuff takes bloody forever. For all ad-driven web pages, if I click a link, that product will be in my face for weeks, if not months. That dress looked interesting, I looked at it, figured out it's poorly-made crap, and you can show it to me for as long as you want, the fabric is pretty.

I refuse to use fb messenger or the fb app on my phone, so that's a help. It took getting a bring-your-own-phone mobile plan and an unlocked phone to not have fb forced on my phone.

I really distrust fb; they have never shown an interest in listening to how users want the platform to work. I don't trust google, because they have so much reach. You know who I don't trust most? Equifax, TransUnion, Experian. I don't want them to have my financial data, or to be careless fuckers with it. There are more than a few companies using credit scores for hiring. If I want a mortgage or car loan, I might pay more because I walked away from an unreasonable debt and I can't be arsed to contest it further.

The current administration is very busy giving big corporations everything they want. What we need is strong consumer protection, limits on what data can be stored, for how long, how it must be protected, and how it can be used. Fat chance.
posted by theora55 at 7:26 AM on March 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


Following up, post-data dive in my very own Google fluids...

Like my FB data request, I am shocked at how little information there is here to see, especially given some of the call-out horrors in the article.

The author mentioned seeing his location trail all over Ireland, for instance. I have Google Maps installed on my tellyphone, and I use it to find places, and I travel around in different countries, but my timeline says, "You have no Location History." Does this just mean I set up my privacy controls properly, or am I missing something?

I have both a personal Google account as well as a paid enterprise package, and I have accessed both daily for many years. Querying both revealed that, yes, now I have a handy downloadable archive of all my emails, and that Google knows more about me as a business person than as a human person. That is to say it has more guesses about what kinds of ads I might like to see (but, for the record, the guesses are mostly wrong, because instead of my preferences they track what my clients have directed me research for a project).

Google also thinks I love to watch YouTube videos about slope style biking, because I have a son who is an avid biker. And I guess my daughter has been using the family computer to look up hair products for the head, because Google thinks I'm interested in that subject, too. (For the record, I have no hair on my head.)

So, I'm confused. Why does Google seem willing to tell the author of the article how it has reams and reams of data about them, but it doesn't do the same for me?

I feel left out. Why doesn't the basilisk care about me?
posted by Construction Concern at 7:26 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would like to take this opportunity to point out that Duck Duck Go search is pretty good.

I hung in there with DDG for about a year, but finally, and regretfully, switched back to Google. DDG frequently seems to just ignore significant keywords I include in my search terms: I'd search for something very specific, and the first half dozen results wouldn't contain some of the specific words I searched for anywhere. Or words I specifically tried to -exclude would appear in the results. I've noticed the same thing happening on Google, too, lately; but not nearly as often as on DDG.

(That said, it was their partnership with the truly execrable Yummly that finally pushed me over the edge. God I loathe that site.)
posted by ook at 7:29 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Related: DuckDuckGo Traffic Chart
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 7:36 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


> > Work at Google and you're suspicious of your wife? Perfect, just look up her location and search history for the last ten years
> Can a Google employee do this?

Not without getting instantly fired.

Also the 5.5Gb of takeout data includes, e.g contents of user's gmail account, youtube uploads, etc. Of course it's 5.5Gb. It's quite likely almost entirely the user's own data.
posted by smcameron at 7:40 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm probably on an FBI watch-list now, so if I die in the next few months IT WASN'T AN ACCIDENT, IT WAS A SET-UP

In a thread railing about how we've given all our personal data to companies and not the government, this seems like a weird take.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:45 AM on March 28, 2018


Let them mine my data, if it amuses them to do so. See how much good it does them once I'm dead.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:48 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


Let them mine my data, if it amuses them to do so. See how much good it does them once I'm dead.

They could use your lifetime data to model and project behavior of comparable young people.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:50 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


That's a new kind of collective guilt to me: if you let a company have your data, you're a narc! It might play quite well in a very connected community that doesn't want monitoring.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:01 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


I like how we live in an actual cyberpunk dystopia and in spite of the popularity of the genre some of us are still like 'eh it's fine I guess' even after we've run through the plots of dozens of books in an entire series based in the genre (eg Snowden, Manning, everybody on this list and this list, the Panama Papers, the Paradise Papers, etc)
posted by runt at 8:02 AM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


My kids and I use my google account as my way of creating 'noise'. I'd love to see the consumer profile they are making on me. "Man this guy is currently discovering '70s punk and loves Baby Lucy videos". If a Sid Vicious Baby Alive comes out, you can personally thank me.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:06 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


Some ideas about alternatives:

Cloud File Storage: Assuming you don't want to go old-school with rsync or git, Nextcloud and Seafile seem to be the best DIY options. At this point, there are multiple commercial providers including OneDrive if you want to split your big brother exposure to Microsoft. SpiderOak promises end-to-end encryption.

Bookmarks: I've found Shaarli the best DIY solution, with Wallabag for a more pocket-like experience. Pinboard.in might be one of the better commercial solutions.

Email/Contacts/Calendars: I like fastmail. A lot of people like ProtonMail. This is one area where I think DIY is more work than is worth it.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:06 AM on March 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


They could use your lifetime data to model and project behavior of comparable young people.

Very respectfully, I think the attitude of "let them do what they want, I don't care" is getting increasingly less tenable. Sorry. Participation adds data, which gets used to influence *ahem* elections, referendums. Perhaps it doesn't influence you, but you've still helped in the influencing of others. Extremely very not good.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 8:07 AM on March 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


Not without getting instantly fired.
Just because there's a bureaucratic process does not make it right or safe, alas.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:08 AM on March 28, 2018


Google thinks I spent some time in Tuscon (I didn't). Weird.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:13 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Greetings from the Department of Mixed Feelings!

Ministry of MixFeel, I think you meant.

Their second album is the bomb, BTW
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:16 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


Some of the google ones seems like the author was padding out the list a bit.
"Your calendar, your Google hangout sessions, your location history, the music you listen to, the Google books you've purchased, the Google groups you're in, the websites you've created, the phones you've owned, the pages you've shared, how many steps you walk in a day.."
How does the author think that could based services work, exactly? It's not shocking that the seller of books or music would have a record of what you bought, or that an on-line calendar service would "gasp!" have your calendar information.
posted by Mr. Big Business at 8:17 AM on March 28, 2018 [8 favorites]


I was disappointed that FB didn't provide any of the data that they'd derived about me. Just the stuff I'd submitted, and the advertisers they'd sold my details to. Most of those advertisers are in Sweden, a place I've never been to.
posted by scruss at 8:18 AM on March 28, 2018


Just want to say Google Timeline is a totally cool feature and worth turning on if you're OK with the privacy tradeoff. They do a really nice job passively tracking your location and reporting a diary of your travels. There's data export via Google Takeout, too. It's such an obscure feature though, literally no one I've talked to has heard of it, and most of my friends work in the tech industry. (It used to be called Google Latitude, if that rings any bells.) It's about 50/50 whether my friends have the tracking turned on without knowing it, that's not good.

A friend and I built an alternative location tracker called Wanderin.gs. Mostly we wanted a heatmap, but also the data is stored in your personal iCloud so that only you can access it (not us!). It's a small project but I'm proud of it.
posted by Nelson at 8:29 AM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


I downloaded all my Facebook photos a couple months back (so I could put them in Google Photos... I know, I know) and I was actually pretty surprised and annoyed that all the metadata associated with location and date seems to have been stripped out (I know, I know). It's annoying because now I have this huge jumble of photos from a span of 10 years that is not in any order whatsoever and isn't searchable on Google Photos.

I suspect they might strip that out purely for the download.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:38 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


That looks really neat.
I used Latitude years ago and have consistently worked to keep and update the data, including downloading it via takeout and creating heat maps.
It looks like wanderin.gs and all the others you link from your page are iOs only though, which is a shame because I am super into that sort of thing.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:38 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Why does Google seem willing to tell the author of the article how it has reams and reams of data about them, but it doesn't do the same for me?

Fascinating to see the world is dividing into two kinds of people: those who are panic-scared about how much data corporations and governments are collecting about them, and those who complain they're not being tracked comprehensively enough.

It's like that old joke about army food: it's terrible and the portions are tiny.
posted by chavenet at 8:39 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sorry. Participation adds data, which gets used to influence *ahem* elections, referendums. Perhaps it doesn't influence you, but you've still helped in the influencing of others. Extremely very not good.

I mean, if they're using my profile to target other people, that's going to be of questionable usefulness at best. I'm entirely disenfranchised, myself, so I'm not sure how they'd influence me.
posted by Dysk at 8:54 AM on March 28, 2018


I want to share that I clicked on the personal Facebook profile of a local actress who I saw in a show, and with whom I guess I share a couple acquaintances, and OH BOY is Facebook sure we're friends now. Top of the page every time I log in, "Hey, you know this lady right? Look at all the friends you have in common! "

Like, Jesus Christ, Facebook. I already feel weird as hell for looking at her vacation pictures when I was just curious about what other stuff she'd been in. I don't need your help cyberstalking the poor woman.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 9:12 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm feeling pretty good about my lack of a footprint, but on the other hand, I don't have a phone, so everything is from desktop or an ancient iPod Touch whose browser crashes when I visit literally every website except MetaFilter.

I sort of wish the Facebook stuff was as easily linked to, as for the past few months I've been getting suggestions to join Big Ass Aficionado-type groups despite me not viewing that sort of filth*.

*In the same browser.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:42 AM on March 28, 2018


Well, I just found the phrase "delete Google search history" in my Google search history. I feel like I've had some kind of fundamental experience of the modern age.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:50 AM on March 28, 2018 [12 favorites]


Google Timeline ... They do a really nice job passively tracking your location and reporting a diary of your travels.

This is an honest question asked due to ignorance, not snark: Why on earth would someone want that?

99% of mine would be home/grocery store/liquor store, plus the occasional Metafilter meetup, so not hard to keep track in my own head...
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:03 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also, unless I've misunderstood something: What you get when you request your data, even if it's comparatively nothing because you'd already disabled all that, is still only a fraction of the total data they have for you.

Because I was already an adult when "the Internet" became available and I had already learned distrust of humanity and its institutions, I've had all possible tracking, ads, history, etc. completely blocked/disabled to the utmost of my ability pretty much from the get-go; but I know better than to pat myself on the back and assume They have no information about me.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:09 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Why on earth would someone want that?

One example: If you visit the liquor store on the same day each week, Google could charge liquor companies more money for liquor ads in your search results on that day since they might be more effective. Or, maybe just show you liquor ads in general since you are the kind of person who visits a liquor store.
posted by sideshow at 11:10 AM on March 28, 2018


Greg_Ace, I like having a record of where I've been. I tend to forget, particularly years later. Google Timeline seems focussed specifically on identifying places you visit, like restaurants and parks. (I imagine they're crowdsourcing the locations of interesting places this way, like FourSquare.) My thing Wanderings is more aimed at showing off your travels; the sample screenshot, for instance, is from a tourist trip I took on a luxury train in India. Our heatmap is also particularly good at highlighting places you go. For instance my map of San Francisco, where I live, really highlights how I never go north of Market Street.

In theory this data can be used to geotag other data you collect. Photos you took for instance. Or emails you sent or tweets or Facebook stuff or whatever. Some things are geotagged directly (mobile phone photos) but not everything.

Location tracking isn't for everyone. It's definitely a privacy concern. I like having a 7+ year record of where I've been, personally.
posted by Nelson at 11:17 AM on March 28, 2018 [9 favorites]


Google could charge liquor companies more money for liquor ads in your search results

I haven't seen ads for coming up on 20 years. I hated commercials on TV from the time I was a teenager (to the point of laboriously taping my favorite shows on VHS so I could FF through the multitudinous commercial breaks). When I got onto the Internet in the early 00's I very quickly found out how to block web page ads and have done so ever since. It's incomprehensible to me why anyone would expressly want to see them.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:21 AM on March 28, 2018 [8 favorites]


I like having a 7+ year record of where I've been, personally.

Fair enough. If I don't have photos or memorabilia of some sort for a place I've been, I don't especially care to remember I'd been there. Or I've been there enough times (a friend's house, my favorite restaurants/pubs, grocery store, etc.) that I don't need a reminder. So, MMMV.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:23 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Google's offered carrot is that they can give you information on traffic commutes and how busy your favorite places are.

But I strongly suspect the biggest benefit is to marketing analytics along the lines of, "do people who shop here come directly from downtown or the burbs?"
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:40 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


Fair enough. If I don't have photos or memorabilia of some sort for a place I've been, I don't especially care to remember I'd been there.

This can be difficult with gigs and things, where you're kind of half working. If you do a lot of them, it's real easy to lose track of where you've played, when, etc. So while I don't use it myself, I can totally see the appeal.
posted by Dysk at 11:44 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Sorry to be the one but...

Is this something I'd have to have a gmail account (and be logged into it) to worry about?
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 11:50 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


If you do a lot of [gigs and things], it's real easy to lose track of where you've played, when, etc.

Pen and paper, or at most a (non-Google-Docs) spreadsheet still works for me. But I know humanity contains multitudes, and I'm fast approaching lawn-guarding territory, so I'll drop it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:57 AM on March 28, 2018


Why on earth would someone want that?

Google could charge liquor companies more money for liquor ads in your search results

That explains why Google would want that, but not why the user would...
posted by ook at 11:59 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


Accepting privacy is dead and isn't coming back -- It's kind of neat to have such an intense log of your life and activity. Google knows shit about me I've long forgotten.

"I'm probably on an FBI watch-list now, so if I die in the next few months IT WASN'T AN ACCIDENT, IT WAS A SET-UP

In a thread railing about how we've given all our personal data to companies and not the government, this seems like a weird take."

I don't see much of a difference, I find it hard to believe the government could not get access to this info, I feel it is a safe to assume that they already do.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:15 PM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Pen and paper, or at most a (non-Google-Docs) spreadsheet still works for me.

Maybe we pay very different gigs, but it's a good night if I don't lose anything important, nevermind stuff like setlists. Scraps of paper, or even notebooks, with information about where and when you are don't stand a chance. Besides, I remember where I am, where I was last week, last month, etc so I don't have a pressing need to write it down. It's only after the fact you realise you don't know anymore.
posted by Dysk at 12:19 PM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


Didn't see it in the comments so far (but admittedly didn't read them ALL) - is there a way to actually really delete stuff from your google drive (in a way that it's actually deleted)?
Relatedly - I have files/folders that I share with others. When I delete old versions, Drive tells me they're removed for me, but still visible by people who were sharing them, which sounds like they'll never ever go away.
Has anyone found good replacements for Calendar or Drive?
posted by BekahVee at 12:31 PM on March 28, 2018


It might just be due to my addiction to police procedural dramas (late night binge watching, plus insomnia), but I kind of like the location tracking feature. Yeah, it might be embarrassing to have the pot shops and porno stores revealed to the police, but that would be OK if in the service of exonerating me from something more serious.

I made sure it was working a couple of years ago.
posted by yesster at 1:23 PM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's possible that google is collecting some form location data even if your location history is turned off. Your cell phone provider certainly is. I think location history is just a particular service used by Google to push information at you, that may or may not be weighted their marketing.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:37 PM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


My biggest concern isn't what data they've collected, but who they've sold it to...and who they've sold it to. :/
posted by sexyrobot at 2:18 PM on March 28, 2018 [7 favorites]


And who may steal it from any of those parties. Or subpoena it.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:32 PM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


Also, unless I've misunderstood something: What you get when you request your data, even if it's comparatively nothing because you'd already disabled all that, is still only a fraction of the total data they have for you.

Yeah, I'd love to see a comparison of the Google Takeout output to a subpoena of the same person, or the output of a subpoena on someone who doesn't have a Google account.
posted by XMLicious at 5:31 PM on March 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


Accepting privacy is dead and isn't coming back -- It's kind of neat to have such an intense log of your life and activity. Google knows shit about me I've long forgotten.

I'm with Mr. Ace on this, why?
Not snarking, just something I can't imagine thinking.
posted by bongo_x at 8:16 PM on March 28, 2018


It me.
posted by Sprocket at 9:00 PM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't see much of a difference, I find it hard to believe the government could not get access to this info, I feel it is a safe to assume that they already do.

My beef with the take is not the idea that the government has the ability to get this data. Rather, I think it’s weird that you’d imply that telling people about the information that Google literally tells you they collect would get you on an FBI watch list, with the loose implication that the FBI is concerned that people might become aware of the services that Google makes available to its users. It’s a bad non-sequitur.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:55 PM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


the issue is not whether you can be tracked. it's whether there's anything useful in it. just live your public-facing life, at all times, very gingerly, like there's a tiger about to eat you, and you'll be fine.
posted by wibari at 11:31 PM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


wibari, that's exactly what's meant by social cooling.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:48 AM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is this something I'd have to have a gmail account (and be logged into it) to worry about?
No. You don't.
posted by fullerine at 2:20 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Okay, but without a Gmail account (or an FB account), is there anything useful to be done besides worrying (and some browser hardening)?
It's not like we can see any of our FB or Google profile information without an account... or is it?
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:43 AM on March 29, 2018


It's not like we can see any of our FB or Google profile information without an account

Sure you can, you just need to pay one of their partners like Cambridge Analytica or someone.
posted by Dysk at 3:04 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hmmm. Wants me to log into Google. OK, I can do that. Private window opening...

Nothing on my Google Timeline.
Bit of YouTube history there. So now I've turned that off... err, sorry, "paused" it just like everything else.
Ads settings: irrelevant. I block them all anyway.
Apps with Google account access: Kodi plugin for YouTube. Runs inside my house. Google can leak all the info it likes to my own app on my own device without causing me any stress.
YouTube history: empty.
Google Takeout archive size: still being prepared. It won't be much, just the last month's worth of Trash from my Gmail account plus a few Drive documents.

Private window closing...

I have no Facebook account.
I don't use Windows 10.

Feeling strangely unfreaked out right now.
posted by flabdablet at 4:29 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Got my Takeout archive. 25 products, 41.2 MB. Nothing there I didn't expect.

When does the freaking out part start? I still haven't got past the part where I get to feel insufferably smug for actually having read and understood their TOS and privacy policies and making an informed decision about how to use their services. Which, by the way, is exactly why I have no Facebook account.

Windows 10 is a different matter altogether. That's just visceral.
posted by flabdablet at 6:04 AM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


I still haven't got past the part where I get to feel insufferably smug

well you coulda fooled me
posted by duffell at 7:28 AM on March 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


that's exactly what's meant by social cooling.

totally. i get why that could be harmful to the free exchange of ideas. the best solution, if you really want to stay engaged online, is to stay as anonymous as possible and thereby make their data on you as useless as possible. i dont see any realistic way of being active on social media under one's true name without also being tracked and studied and exploited into oblivion.
posted by wibari at 11:42 AM on March 30, 2018


honestly, i'm disappointed i apparently only started being location tracked a few months ago. doesn't have my trip to vegas or the years i was on the east coast. and i have all the settings set to "track me everywhere".
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:30 PM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


And now here's Richard Stallman to offer some solutions, because perhaps now people are listening.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:03 AM on April 3, 2018


The world would be in much better shape if more people took rms's advice more often.
posted by flabdablet at 8:09 AM on April 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


FB news yesterday
An Update on Our Plans to Restrict Data Access on Facebook
However, malicious actors have also abused these features to scrape public profile information by submitting phone numbers or email addresses they already have through search and account recovery. Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way.
Most ..... so thats quite a lot.
As of the fourth quarter of 2017, Facebook had 2.2 billion monthly active users
posted by adamvasco at 9:51 AM on April 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


News of Facebook's secret tool to delete executive messages caps days of chaos
As Sheryl Sandberg mounts apology tour, company is under fire again over special privacy privileges not granted to regular users
Speaking to CNBC, Sandberg suggested that Facebook users may one day be able to opt out of having their data mined by the company altogether – but that they would have to pay for the privilege.

The company has “different forms of opt out” she said, but not a one-stop shop. “We don’t have an opt-out at the highest level. That would be a paid product,” Sandberg said.
posted by XMLicious at 2:29 PM on April 7, 2018


Making the product into the product instead of the users into the product should probably make the product cost something.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:52 PM on April 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


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