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Facebook Silently Removes Ability To Download Your Posts

Unknown Lamer posted about 10 months ago | from the probably-best-to-forget dept.

Facebook 229

dcollins writes "Facebook has a 'Download Info' capability that I've used regularly since 2010 to archive, backup, and search all the information that I've written and shared there (called 'wall posts'). But I've discovered that sometime in the last few months, Facebook silently removed this largest component from the Downloaded Info, locking up all of your posted information internally where it can no longer be exported or digitally searched. Will they reverse course if this is publicized and they're pressured on the matter?" It does appear that the archive of your wall posts is now only available through the not-very-useful Activity Log.

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229 comments

I would ahve got a frosty (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914727)

But slashdot silently removed the link...

has that ever worked? (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#43914745)

Will they reverse course if this is publicized and they're pressured on the matter?

How often has that been successful in getting Facebook to change anything?

Re:has that ever worked? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914861)

How often has that been successful in getting Facebook to change anything?

The past privacy brouhahas worked a little.

That's the joke.

Re:has that ever worked? (4, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 10 months ago | (#43915485)

Not because of the bad publicity, but if they take it as an indication that most people are upset about it then yeah, they might not want to annoy their user base away and fall below critical mass.

Specifically to this issue? No, it's abundantly clear that most facebookers don't care. But when it comes to trivial things like "where did the 'like' button go why did you move it all the way to the line below oh my god this is horrible" then maybe.

Malicious? (2)

telchine (719345) | about 10 months ago | (#43914747)

I don't really understand why Facebook would do this. What benefit is there for them?

Re:Malicious? (5, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 months ago | (#43914799)

not having to fix the download info tool to work with something minor that broke it.

Re:Malicious? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914905)

This. Probably one person that knows how to keep it running, and they got busy with other stuff.

Though to be fair, FB has enough money to throw at a problem that it shouldn't be a real issue.

Re:Malicious? (5, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 10 months ago | (#43914817)

Obvious benefit is that it makes it harder for their Products to move to a possible competitor's website should they want to do so.

Re:Malicious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914949)

Obvious benefit is that it makes it harder for their Products to move to a possible competitor's website should they want to do so.

You DO understand that smarmy attitude and meme isn't getting you any converts, right? Nor will it ever?

Re:Malicious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915003)

May be smarmy but its the absolute truth AND YOU KNOW IT!!

Re:Malicious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915129)

The more you tighten your grip, Facebook, the more users will slip through your fingers...

Reasons (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914835)

1) Buzz. You're talking about them. Free Advertisements rule!
2) Trial balloon. Did anyone notice? A little. Oh well, we'll dial it back a bit. Maybe you can only download the last few days' worth.
3) All your data are belong to ... Zuckerberg.

Re:Reasons (5, Interesting)

bobbied (2522392) | about 10 months ago | (#43915229)

3) All your data are belong to ... Zuckerberg.

An excellent reason to NOT post personal information on ANY site, your data becomes another's property. Sites like Facebook collect an astounding amount of information from your activity, more than you likely suspect.

I know of multiple births which where announced on Facebook. Birth announcements only gave the full name and date of the birth but one could deduce a lot more from Facebook. One parent posts the announcement of full name and date. You got the proud parent's name who has a spouse relationship so you now have both parents' names. You look at the mother who has her mother shown and volia, mother's maiden name. Births are recorded in the county records, so you look for what counties are close to their home address. You can usually weed that down to one or two. Now we have Father's name, Mother's name, Mother's maiden name, date of birth and county of birth which is more than enough information to take over somebodies identity. Poor kids...Don't even know how much trouble their parents may have caused them, even before they get out of the hospital for the first time.

Seriously, if you find the need to download all your posts from Facebook and filter though them, you have a problem...

Re:Reasons (4, Interesting)

ron_ivi (607351) | about 10 months ago | (#43915347)

"Don't give personal info to strangers" should be a basic safety lesson all parents teach their kids.

It applies equally much if the stranger's handing out free candy from a windowless van in a city park, or handing out free web services online. And remember that to you Sergei, Zuckerberg, and MySpace Tom are strangers no matter how much they claim to be "friends" who "don't be evil".

Even Fox News tells you to not give facebook honest information [foxbusiness.com] (perhaps encouraging you to violate Facebook's terms of use).

Personally I encourage everyone who needs to use Facebook to do it with entirely fictitious data. It's more fun. Your actual friends will know what your aliases are; and you probably don't want your non-actual-friends spying on you anyway.

Re:Malicious? (4, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 10 months ago | (#43914849)

They don't want you to able to access your stuff if you're not on Facebook. This "encourages" you to stay on Facebook.

Re:Malicious? (5, Insightful)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 10 months ago | (#43914911)

From Facebook's perspective, FTFY:

They don't want you to able to access their stuff if you're not on Facebook.

Re:Malicious? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915337)

I don't get the outrage over "privacy rights" when users willingly go to and use a free platform that they should know is fully sponsored by ads and data mining.

Personal responsibility.

End of story.

Captive audience (4, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | about 10 months ago | (#43914855)

I don't really understand why Facebook would do this. What benefit is there for them?

The harder it is for you to download your data, the harder it is for you to leave.

Hotel California (2)

istartedi (132515) | about 10 months ago | (#43914971)

I don't really understand why Facebook would do this. What benefit is there for them?

You can check out any time you like; but you can never leave... with your data, at least not easily.

Re:Hotel California (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 10 months ago | (#43915321)

You can check out any time you like; but you can never leave... with your data, at least not easily.

You mean "their data". It's not your data when you post it to Facebook, it's theirs, you've given it to them.

Re:Hotel California (0)

Silvrmane (773720) | about 10 months ago | (#43915625)

Augh! "For all intents and purposes". "Begging the question" does not mean what you think it means. It means "a type of informal fallacy in which an implicit premise would directly entail the conclusion," or in other words, circular reasoning. How do people get to the point of mangling the language to this extent?

Re:Malicious? (1)

countach44 (790998) | about 10 months ago | (#43914991)

The less features you have to maintain, the better? If they make any internal data format and/or API changes, they may have have to change something here.

Re:Malicious? (0)

Hypotensive (2836435) | about 10 months ago | (#43915157)

I don't really understand why anyone would want to use Facebook. Mind you, I never understood space hoppers, pet rocks or mood rings either.

Re:Malicious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915227)

Prevent people from leaving facebook or migrating to another service.

OK then... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914765)

I just think out loud and post it as news!

Meh. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914771)

Facebook removes a little-known, little-used feature that they no longer want to spend money supporting. The feature can be replaced on the user end with screen scraping. "News" at 11.

Get a court order. (4, Interesting)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 10 months ago | (#43914779)

If retrieving your posts is that important to you, get a court order, so Facebook must give you access to download them.

Re:Get a court order. (4, Funny)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 10 months ago | (#43914805)

If retrieving your posts is that important to you, get a court order, so Facebook must give you access to download them.

If the government's archiving all digital communications, who needs a court order? Just file a FOIA for your old stuff.

Re:Get a court order. (5, Funny)

c (8461) | about 10 months ago | (#43914869)

If retrieving your posts is that important to you, get a court order, so Facebook must give you access to download them.

If the government's archiving all digital communications, who needs a court order? Just file a FOIA for your old stuff.

That could work, but you risk having them black out the parts you're interested in.

Re:Get a court order. (4, Informative)

JJJJust (908929) | about 10 months ago | (#43914961)

US centric: The Freedom of Information Act is designed to get information on other subjects. The Privacy Act is what you cite and a far better tool to get information on yourself.

or if (5, Interesting)

Titus Groan (2834723) | about 10 months ago | (#43914929)

or if you're in the UK serve them with a Data Protection Act Subject Access Request for all of your information, don't forget to ask for details of all those with whom your data has been shared.The most they can charge you for this is £10 and when they fail to comply you report them to the Office of the Information Commissioner who will ream their ass with a big fat fine. Similar legislation exists throughout the EU.

Data protection request (4, Informative)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 10 months ago | (#43914785)

Depending on where you are, you might be able to send them a Subject Access Request or your local equivalent, forcing them to provide you with all the personal data they hold about you, give or take a bit of wriggling on their part, for a token amount of money.

Re:Data protection request (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914909)

Last night your mom did a bit of wriggling on my part, for a token amount of money.

Re:Data protection request (1)

Xest (935314) | about 10 months ago | (#43914973)

I was under the impression this is why Facebook implemented this feature in the first place, to try and ward off some of the people who were doing exactly that.

Perhaps now the whole "contact Facebook to get all personal data held on you on a CD" thing has calmed down they think they can backtrack on that. Maybe they need a reminder, maybe it's time to start requesting data again as you say?

Re:Data protection request (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915329)

Sure, large but ill-prepared companies typically soak a large amount of money for a SAR, particularly if you have a good idea what they've got and keep going back to them and muttering "Uh, it sure would be a shame if you'd forgotten to send me some of the data and I reported that..." You can easily cost them several hours of multiple senior people asking their minions to fetch out the relevant data, assemble it in readable form and burn it to a CD or whatever.

If they're really ill-prepared this is also where they enter a dilemma. They are likely to find uncomplimentary comments from their own staff in YOUR records, e.g. "This stupid idiot thinks he's entitled to a copy of our data. Told to FOAD" and they argue about whether to send that to you. Either they do (and now you've got the seeds of a PR disaster) or they pretend they didn't have such data (but if you can prove they did they're in violation and could be fined a lot of money). A better prepared company has supervisors actively making sure nothing like that exists in their records, and instructing CS people to be polite about customers emphasising that the customer is entitled to see these records.

Why bother? (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#43914797)

I usually just go delete everything I've ever post and then contemplate whether deleting the account is worth never hearing from several cousins again unless they figure out that I left Facebook and seek me out. I don't even know how many relatives even have my contact info anymore outside of Facebook...

Re:Why bother? (4, Informative)

cdrudge (68377) | about 10 months ago | (#43914959)

Do you really think that when you delete it that it actually deletes it? It's been standard operating procedure for years where I've worked that things appear deleted as far as the end user sees, but it's still there in the database just flagged "deleted".

Doing this makes it far easier to "undelete" something when it was inadvertently deleted, investigate something that a user was trying to cover up, or just keep a record for our own data mining purposes that's separate to the end user's use of the data.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914967)

You can't delete anything from Facebook. Everything you post, upload or like, it permanently against you. They simply have a hide flag against it. Everything is still available to their customers (other companies), law or govt agencies, and is only one bug away from being publicly available.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914977)

You usually do this? How often have you deleted your Facebook account.

Re:Why bother? (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#43915099)

Deleted the account? Never. Deleted all my posts and uploads? More times than I can quantify off the top of my head. My account presently consists of a picture of a stormtrooper, a couple private messages, and a few posts on relatives' statuses.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915375)

Haha - nice way to become anonymous: 1) Move your entire life to Facebook. 2) Delete your Facebook profile. 3) Anonymity is yours.

If you can view it you can download it. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#43914867)

If you can still view the posts you can download them yourself. Look at this as a chance to learn about some scripting language a little more. You might even be able to publish this work for fame or money.

Re:If you can view it you can download it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915471)

You have to ask for permission:

"2.You will not collect users' content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our prior permission."

https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms [facebook.com]

I still see it. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914915)

I have the "Download a copy of your Facebook data" on my Account Settings page. Maybe this was selectively removed from some accounts only?

only post links (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914919)

Maintain a blog on wordpress or something. Only post links to facebook. Hell, you can link your accounts and have it auto-post to your wall every time you update your blog. Problem solved.

Re:only post links (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 10 months ago | (#43915231)

FWIW, last time I tried to set this up, a FB rep asked for an admin login to my Wordpress to 'verify the setup' (you have to apply for an 'app' to do the link). I just ignored it, not being worth the tradeoff to me and moved on.

Then a few weeks ago, my blog posts started showing up on my Timeline. Which is fine - since I kicked the habit a while ago, I'm very rarely on there anymore. But I was surprised they approved the app.

BTW, if there are any religious facebookers here: try quitting for a week and see how much happier you are. If you have a real life too, it'll be much more rewarding.

They're pushing their in-house data-mining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914921)

They want to force you to export the results of their "Graph Search" utility that they've been making available on a rolling basis.

Some whine with that cheese? (0)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 10 months ago | (#43914931)

How much were you paying Facebook so they could provide this vital service to you?

Re:Some whine with that cheese? (5, Insightful)

_Ludwig (86077) | about 10 months ago | (#43914979)

By your logic, you couldn’t complain if I offered you a ride to the airport and then kicked you out of the car on the side of the freeway halfway there.

Re:Some whine with that cheese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915553)

If you were a US health care facility, you could do that and then send him to collections for half of whatever cab fare you decided on.

Re:Some whine with that cheese? (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43915011)

Based on the ad revenue generated per user, a bit more than four dollars per year. Maybe as much as five.

Re:Some whine with that cheese? (1)

aicrules (819392) | about 10 months ago | (#43915257)

every time you use facebook with ads, you're generating money for them :) that's how it is "free". However, I still agree...cry more noobs.

Down the memory hole (5, Interesting)

mkro (644055) | about 10 months ago | (#43914939)

On Sunday or Monday, I shared a "What is happening in Turkey" post, in English, from a Turkish friend's wall to my own. It was shared to "Friends except acquaintances" and got a few likes and comments. This morning I noticed it was gone from my wall. It is not to be found in my activity log, and the notifications of that it had been commented on were also gone.

I was starting to doubt I had posted it at all, when I remembered to check Google Reader (Yep, still running), as I ages ago had set up a RSS feed with my notifications there. There it was, "[Friend's name] likes your link", with a clickable link to facebook.com/my name/posts/ followed by a numerical value. However clicking on it gave this message: "This content is currently unavailable. The page you requested cannot be displayed right now. It may be temporarily unavailable, the link you clicked on may have expired, or you may not have permission to view this page". Other posts in my RSS feed works fine, so it was just this particular one.

If it wasn't for the RSS feed, I probably would have shrugged it off and thought no more of it, so I guess the RSS feature will be gone soon too.

Re:Down the memory hole (2)

c0d3g33k (102699) | about 10 months ago | (#43915055)

Down the *censorship* hole, more accurately.

Re:Down the memory hole (3, Informative)

i kan reed (749298) | about 10 months ago | (#43915109)

Have you read 1984? That's what a memory hole was.

Re:Down the memory hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915359)

There never was a book entitled '1984'. I don't know what you're talking about.

Re:Down the memory hole (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915353)

Or your friend took down his post. When someone deletes their post, I think it cascade deletes the sharing of that post.

Re:Down the memory hole (1)

BorisSkratchunkov (642046) | about 10 months ago | (#43915743)

I've had posts disappear too, but I don't believe it to always be a matter of censorship. From what I understand, all of Facebook's user data is stored in a SQL database of some flavour (or several databases); it's possible (nay, even probable) that between the Facebook frontend and their database(s), some wonky software component refuses to forward post data to the frontend. FWIW, one of my disappeared posts was a video of me drinking O'Doul's (you know, the non-alcoholic beer- the one that you drink when you want to be drinking beer but can't). It was a fairly innocuous inside joke, and I'm sad that I now have to admit on Slashdot to having drunk that crap in order to make a point.

It's still there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43914995)

Check under account settings.

big deal (0)

Orp (6583) | about 10 months ago | (#43915001)

If it's so important to you, compose your stuff in an editor, save it, copy, paste.

It doesn't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915007)

I used this service a few weeks ago and it only dumped about half the pictures I was in. I didn't get any wall posts (in the regular download information and the detailed download). I also tried searching Facebook for posts that linked to Youtube. Seems like a normal thing to do if your friend posts a link and you know some text in the title and nothing else. The search returned zero results. What am I missing? This is 2013 and Facebook still has no ability to search content. I've since proceeded to write my own custom scripts to download all of my interactions on Facebook and organize it in my own database. I am going to continue to retrieving information using graph so eventually I don't even have to visit their shitty website, it will just pop up notifications like Thunderbird does when you receive and e-mail.

I might have given a damn... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915009)

If I used Facebook. Instead I use my HOSTS file to block all of Zuckerberg's domains.

To add nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915033)

I left facebook and twitter 1 month ago to reduced the channels of contact back to only email and phone. It really has been an improvement. Took about two weeks to get it out of my system.

what's this then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915041)

from the 'privacy settings / general: https://www.facebook.com/download?h=AaAoJ0C0QmYzr9Sf

Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915049)

All that's left to do is start permanently deleting anything posted after 30 days.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915061)

Why would anyone share any data of any importance with Facebook? People ought to know by now that anything that they share with Facebook will automatically become Facebook's property de facto.

How do I download my Slashdot posts? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 10 months ago | (#43915073)

How do I download my Slashdot posts? I've wanted to do that for years.

Function is still available for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915087)

I just tried it out. Click on the gear icon to go to Account Settings. There's a link on the bottom to Download Your Information. Still seems to work for me at least. Have they hidden this by market area or for certain groups only?

Battered wives (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915089)

Users whinging about Failbook's repeated casual disregard for their "users" is like watching battered wives who going back for me.

Sad, pathetic and retarded.

its their product (1)

goblinspy (2738809) | about 10 months ago | (#43915125)

They can do what ever they want. They only facilitated a service and they can do with it what ever they please. They might not be able to use your things like photographs which are protected by other laws but for services, they own it so their choice.

Still not funny (1)

rcharbon (123915) | about 10 months ago | (#43915163)

Facebook Search has always been a bad joke. The only fix that might work? Let Google run it.

Oh, wait. Google+.

wtf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915305)

...you're still on facebook??

Doesn't anybody get it. (1)

houbou (1097327) | about 10 months ago | (#43915361)

Nothing is free. As far as I'm concerned, I would rather pay for a social media network, if, they operated in good faith and ensured that I could control the levels of access to my information as I see fit. You won't get that from Facebook.

Idiots!! The feature has NOT been removed. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915383)

The feature has NOT been removed. It is right here:

https://www.facebook.com/settings [facebook.com]

Simply click "Download a copy of your Facebook data."

It has, indeed, been removed (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915721)

RTFA. You can download an archive of some of your data. While that archive used to include your wall posts (a substantial portion of the content you generate on Facebook), that content is no longer included. I have tried and verified this.

Did it ever occur to anyone (3, Insightful)

kaizendojo (956951) | about 10 months ago | (#43915405)

that they may be simply working on the site and temporarily disabled the link while they work behind the scenes? Anyone bother to contact their support to find out what was going on? No, let's all just start rumors and have the media pick it up as a 'news' story.

Re:Did it ever occur to anyone (0)

kaizendojo (956951) | about 10 months ago | (#43915425)

BTW, I wouldn't know because I dumped my FB account ages ago.

Re:Did it ever occur to anyone (1)

jasper160 (2642717) | about 10 months ago | (#43915705)

Try recreating your account with the same name and email. A coworker deleted her fb and then a few months later when she was having a lack of attention attack she went to create her account with the same info and it restored her old account with the old posts and pictures.

Professional Russian (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915533)

"And as always, Fuck Facebook."

People are still using facebook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915551)

Not me; nor anyone I 'like'

Why the fuck does anyone use FB? (2)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about 10 months ago | (#43915661)

Really? Because of network effects. That's it. Everyone else is communicating on it.

It's purely a predatory play- they capture people who are at a time in their lives when they're well known to be indiscreet. They then record all that indiscretion. Then they monetize it.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg is taking the results of that monetization and campaigning -hard - for XL Keystone pipeline.

http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_23151754/keystone-xl-foes-rally-front-facebook-protest-zuckerbergs [mercurynews.com]

a fact he's aggressively trying to lie about:

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2013/04/30/1943091/facebook-rejects-ad-highlighting-zuckerberg-groups-support-for-keystone-xl/ [thinkprogress.org]

because like all other deniers,. he's first and foremost a narcissist:

http://www.afterpsychotherapy.com/narcissistic-personality-disorder/ [afterpsychotherapy.com]

who relishes the idea that he's smarter and more knowledgeable across a highly technical domain than are the the world's scientists who have spent their lives disciplined in and mastering that domain.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm [skepticalscience.com]

But one thing he doesn't have in common with other deniers

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer [newyorker.com]

is he's going to be around long enough to be forced by society to bear, without reserve, the consequences of his actions today, which depending on how bad things get, could range anywhere from total dissolution of his personal wealth to fund emergency, remedial action against global warming - an outcome that is now a virtually certainty- to extended torture at the hands of enraged mobs / quasi-civilization, should we reach five degrees of warming and real civilization just breaks down.:

http://globalwarming.berrens.nl/globalwarming.htm [berrens.nl]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nRf2RTqANg [youtube.com]

What is "facebook"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43915663)

Wasn't that something popular back in the double-oughts? Kinda like hula-hoops in the 50's? Nobody but children use either anymore...

Fakeblock (1)

codepigeon (1202896) | about 10 months ago | (#43915727)

I heard there is a new app coming out called Fakeblock. It should help with this.

George Maharris is going to be the next Zuckerberg.
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