June 8, 2017

Data Selfie: This Chrome extension Reveals How Much Facebook Actually Knows About You

Have you ever wondered just how much Facebook actually knows about you? A lot. Yes. When you use facebook, they log everything you do. The pages you like, the people you interact with and even the words in your status updates. Then they take that information, analyze it and assemble a detailed profile of who you are! They know everything about you, including your habits, interests, etc and they sell that information to the advertisers. It’s obvious that the more they know, the more money they make.

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Not only facebook, sites like Twitter, Google and hundreds of advertising and data collection companies know quite a bit about your browsing habits.

How do they track you?

Whenever you visit a site with a Like, Tweet or +1 button, you’re actually sharing data with Facebook, Twitter or Google. These sites actually store cookies on your computer, making it possible for them to keep tabs on you on other websites. As long as there’s a button that can send information to that social network, like a Follow, Like or Tweet button, your data is being shared with these sites. You don’t even have to be logged into your social network account for the data transfer to happen.

Does this make you feel Nervous?

While Facebook collects a lot of your data, you might never get to see what they really learn about you. Data Selfie, a simple Chrome extension, is here to give you a glimpse by letting you analyze your own Facebook usage.

Data Selfie, a simple Chrome Extension:

Data Selfie is a free, open-source Chrome extension launched by New York-based creative studio Data X. It tracks you while you are on Facebook to show you your own data traces and reveal how machine learning algorithms use your data to gain insights about your personality.

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.

Even though people realize that what they post on Facebook can be tracked, not everyone understands that their passive activity is trackable too. The sole purpose of Data Selfie is to show you just how much data you unconsciously leave behind.

The mission of Data Selfie is to educate and empower users by giving them their data back and not storing it anywhere, but locally on the user’s computer. It doesn’t share it with anyone (though obviously, Facebook is tracking it).

While there’s no way to know exactly how much Facebook analyzes your data, Data Selfie gives you a rough approximation. Once you add it to Chrome, the extension tracks your activity on Facebook.

How does it work?

To accomplish this, Data Selfie actually depends on the power of one of the world’s best-known AI systems: Watson, the IBM-created cognitive system.

Once downloaded, the app starts monitoring your Facebook interactions. From every post that you “like,” to how long you spend looking at a shared article to what you click and what you type, every piece of information is analyzed and logged by the AI as it carries out its quest to get to “know” you.

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The extension also comes with a handy dashboard that gives insights of the data that you have liked, viewed, as well as inferences. Your aggregated Facebook activity is shown in a timeline that is conveniently broken down with color coding to highlight different aspects of your data usage.

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In addition to this, the Data Selfie dashboard also includes insight into what posts you’ve spent the most time on – both for friends and liked pages. The extension also uses predictive analytics to guess stuff like your political orientation, religious affiliation as well as shopping and nutrition preferences.

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Data Selfie stores the data locally on your computer and not on external servers. It only sends anonymized data to the servers, which you can also export or delete.

The code for this transparency tool is available on GitHub for developers to use. You can also get Data Selfie from the Chrome Web Store here.

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