Singapore

How much data does Facebook have on you?

Tech giants collect, store huge amount of data about you and people you know

What data do big tech companies like Facebook and Google collect about you?

The New Paper reporters downloaded archives of their personal data from the two companies and found, among other things:

  • location history on both platforms
  • contact numbers of Facebook friends who had never shared their contact with the user personally
  • a list of advertisers who had the user's contact information

For one user, the Google archive amounted to 160GB. This included every search he had ever made, as well as accidental voice recordings from audio activation commands to his Android device he was not aware he had made.

For another user, the Facebook data amounted to 1GB of old messages, pictures, interest groups, and the IP address of every location the account had logged in from.

Facebook acquaintances who had never previously shared their contact numbers may not be aware that the user now had access to this information, because they had linked it to their accounts.

The amount of data collected and stored is not only staggering, but a cause of concern in light of Facebook's ongoing woes.

CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA

It was reported last week that the data of up to 87 million people may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy which had used the information for political purposes.

For all the visibility that tech giants have and the number of users that are affected in the face of a breach, data protection is still something they are struggling with. Ms Joanne Wong, the senior regional director for Asia Pacific and Japan for security intelligence firm LogRhythm

The data leak could have affected more than 65,000 users in Singapore, Facebook said last week.

The company added it would notify affected users.

The risks that users of such platforms are exposed to are "endless", said Ms Joanne Wong, the senior regional director for Asia Pacific and Japan for security intelligence firm LogRhythm.

Potential problems include intrusiveness, financial fraud and even physical risks, she added.

Last week, Facebook disabled a feature that allowed users to search for other users using e-mail addresses or phone numbers, admitting that "malicious actors have... abused these features to scrape public profile information".

The company admitted that "most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped this way".

Mr Rajnesh Singh, regional director of the Internet Society's Asia-Pacific bureau, said such incidents are the "natural outcome of today's data driven economy that puts businesses... first, not users".

The Internet Society is a global organisation dedicated to ensuring that the Internet continues to stay open, transparent, and defined by users.

Ms Wong added: "For all the visibility that tech giants have and the number of users that are affected in the face of a breach, data protection is still something they are struggling with."

The ability to completely scrub your data is dependent on the clauses within the data management policies of such service providers.

Ms Wong said: "Always ensure that the policies are comprehensive and matched with enforcement action in the case that data breaches occur."

Ultimately, there is little legal recourse available for users of such services.

Professor David Llewelyn, deputy dean of the School of Law at Singapore Management University, said: "Unfortunately, when people click on 'I accept' in order to access a site, they are viewed by the law to have read the terms and conditions that they are accepting, as long as they are easily accessible."

Technology