The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives EU citizens greater control over the personal information that businesses collect. The GDPR also gives us the right to request a copy of that data, helping us to stay informed about what they know, and how they process it.

As a result, Facebook has recently unveiled a new feature allowing users to download all of their information. Naturally, many people are very interested in what Facebook “knows”, and there are now dozens of articles written by journalists about their shocking discoveries.

All this excitement may make you curious to know what’s in your own account. Maybe even try to figure out what Facebook is doing with that information. But that may be a bad idea.

What is in there?

Reports from people who have downloaded their Facebook data vary, mainly because there is so much information to read through. At the most basic level, your download shows every interaction you have ever had with Facebook – via their website and app.

Among the information you can expect to see are:

  • Your contacts and their phone numbers (automatically uploaded from your smartphone when you installed the app).
  • Time, date and location information for every time you open the Facebook app.
  • A list of the companies and brands you have interacted with – and who have your contact details too.

Why you shouldn’t bother downloading your Facebook history

Your historical Facebook usage information is very interesting – for the first hour. You will quickly realise that most of this information is available on your timeline anyway.

The trouble is that these files exported from Facebook are incredibly valuable to blackmailers, thieves and fraudsters. If they can steal those files, they can begin using your information to construct a false identity, extort your Facebook friends or sell that data to other hackers and criminals.

Whatever you think about Facebook’s data processing activities, there is no doubt that they use cutting edge security systems to protect your information. Enterprise-grade systems that are much better than your own.

Once you export your data from Facebook, you dramatically increase the risk of falling victim to a criminal. If your computer is compromised, hackers will find the files – and they will use them against you.

How to protect yourself if you do download your Facebook data

The best way to protect yourself against these thefts is to not download your Facebook data. If you really cannot resist the urge, you must take some steps to protect yourself:

  1. Ensure you have a reliable, reputable internet security system like Panda Security Dome installed. This will be able to detect and block attempts by hackers to break into your computer. Click here to download a free trial.
  2. Delete the file as soon as you have finished. The longer you keep the Facebook data export, the greater the risk of it being found and stolen. By deleting the file immediately, this danger lessens. And don’t forget – you can always request another download from Facebook if you do need to check it again later.<7li>

These two tips will help to improve safety, but the only way to stay truly safe is to not download your Facebook history in the first place.