Starting in 2009, Give Me My Data helped thousands of people retrieve their data from Facebook. Whether users wanted their information in reusable data formats to make visualizations, archive it, or to see exactly what Facebook was tracking and sharing about them, Give Me My Data provided this utility, free of charge.
In late 2010, six months after The New York Times and others wrote about how my app helped users access their personal data, Facebook suddenly launched their own version. It’s no coincidence Facebook released a similar service just months after Give Me My Data’s popularity began. The broad attention my app received showed Facebook they needed to provide the growing number of users dissatisfied with the lack of transparency of their platform access and agency over their own data. It is sad, but not surprising that Facebook’s service only provides data in a non-reusable data format. As a commercial entity that profits from data they collect by surveilling citizens around the world, Facebook has an overwhelming private interest in keeping that data out of the hands of competitors.
Accordingly, Facebook recently began requiring all apps using their platform to upgrade to version 2.0 of their API. With this upgrade Facebook introduced a “Login Review” process to restrict which user data permissions third-party apps could request. Under this process, Facebook can now impede what data can be accessed by apps, and alas, whether users can access their own data. While presented as a beneficial feature, this process ultimately allows Facebook to censor apps they don’t like. In May 2015, using Login Review Facebook rejected my app multiple times. Despite repeated attempts to contact them to explain how my app helps their platform, Facebook has only responded with generic rejection notices.
Therefore, after 6 years of developing and supporting a free, public software, I have decided to discontinue Give Me My Data. My app, which was based on the East German Stasi protest slogan, “Freiheit für Meine Akte!,” was subversive in rhetoric and utilitarian in approach, but in the end was too dependent on the platform it critiqued. Thank you to everyone who used it and supported me in this process.
PS. If you would like to access the data you have put on Facebook, as well as the data Facebook has collected about you, in a reusable format, you still can by directly accessing Facebook’s API through their Graph API Explorer. Follow the instructions in this video to learn more.