How to download your personal data from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

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The personal data debacle has been going strong since Facebook ‘accidentally’ decided a few users’ personal information wasn’t important enough to secure, and they kinda sold access to it to someone. This has prompted other social media platforms (a few of which are also owned by Facebook) to roll out ‘download your data’ features.

This after the public suddenly realised that these guys have personal information stored on their servers and it might not be safe there. Many have opted to delete their Facebook accounts after the Cambridge Analytical scandal, which might seem extreme to some. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s still wise for users to check what information has been stored on a given service, and subsequently manage what is known.

The ‘download data’ feature is about more than giving users access the secrets social moguls have under lock and key, but rather to give users peace of mind. Ideally the internet should be a safe place, but it’s not. It can be made a little safer, though, if you know what information about yourself is being stored.


Image credit: Shop Catalog

Facebook has had the Download Archive feature available for a while and it’s no secret, being visible in the privacy settings and all. But after Cambridge Analytica the company has rearranged privacy settings as a whole to make their terms more visible and understandable while informing users as clearly as possible. Other social media platforms have since been criticised for not having the feature available — Instagram and WhatsApp, do you plead guilty?

Instagram has come forward with a solution and user data can now be downloaded form their desktop client (only, which is fine — at least users have the option). Twitter already had the feature, but they have made it more prominent in user settings, while WhatsApp is still working on rolling out a data download tool to all its users soon (we’ll let you know how it works once it is made available).

Download your data from Facebook

Your Facebook archive contains just about all the information related to your account, including your photos, active sessions, chat history, IP addresses, facial recognition data, and which ads you clicked, just to name a handful. You’ll be able to choose what info you really want to download, in what format (HTML or JSON), and what quality the media needs to be exported in.

Clearly, Facebook wants you to feel in control here — so you can choose exactly what you want from their server (as long as it has your name on it).

To download your archive, go to Settings and click Download a copy of your Facebook data at the bottom of General AccountSettings, and then click Start My Archive. You will receive an email with a link to download.Download your data from Instagram

Instagram wants you to stay loyal. However until recently users weren’t able to download the personal information that the service hold in its grubby little paws. Instagram’s new Data Download feature can only be accessed through a desktop browser under the Privacy and Security section.

You’ll download a .zip file that holds some, if not all, of the vital information that is already available on the front-end of the app. All the pictures currently on your Instagram profile (anything that has been deleted will not be downloaded), all of your Stories (since the story began), and any media sent via Direct Messages will be in the .zip file.

All text-based content is downloaded in a JSON format, which is essentially a coding language used to create these apps. So this will not be viewable to the general man on the street. But you’ll have your data. Isn’t that what you asked for?

To download your data, go to this link on a desktop and make sure you are logged into the relevant Instagram account. Alternatively, go to Privacy and Security in the user settings and click Download Data. You’ll receive a prompt that it could take up to 48 hours to get the file ready, and it’ll be emailed to you for download (ours only took about ten minutes to be sent to us).Download your data from Twitter

Do you ever wonder what your first tweet ever was? Downloading your Twitter data will give you easy access to all of your previous tweets in a very convenient format.

You’ll find all the CSS, HTML and JSON files (Twitter is thorough) in the downloaded .zip file, but that’s not what we want. If you click on the “index.html” file, you’ll be directed to an online archive where you can browse your entire history of tweets.

Receive access to your data by heading to Account Settings and click on Request your Archive under Content. You’ll receive an email with a link to download your data as soon as the file is compiled. A .zip format file will be available for download, and after you’ve ‘unzipped’ (scandalous!), make sure to read the README.txt file. Yeah – Twitter gives you a manual to understand these strange files you’ve just uncovered. Nice guy Twitter.

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Deputy Editor at Stuff. Nevermind the fancy title, I like writing about things that are cool. Like games, gadgets and sometimes even software. Depending on how cool it is.

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