What Kind of Data Does Facebook Collect?

We spend a lot of time on Facebook and on Facebook products, and the company is able to glean a lot of information from all of this time and activity. For example, Facebook ‘likes’ can predict your race, religion and sexual orientation.

But there are other ways that Facebook is able to collect information on us, and whether you are a business owner or a consumer, you should be aware of how and why Facebook collects your data, what you can do to control it, and how you might stand to benefit from the practice.

What Kind of Data Does Facebook Collect?

How Facebook Collects Data?

A lot of the data Facebook collects is information we readily give them by including it on our Facebook page, in posts or in comments. But Facebook is also able to learn more about you by other forms of engagement, including likes of other pages or posts, comments, messages, even dwell time and whether you watched a video with the sound on or off.

These metrics of individual user engagement are how Facebook keeps being Facebook. They are used to measure user behavior and predict patterns and interests; to build personality profiles that benefit advertisers and to target specific audiences with tailored content that keeps them on the app longer.

But the practice of data capture has been exploited by third-party apps. Famously, in 2016, “tens of millions of Facebook users’ data were captured and (mis)used in an attempt to influence them during the 2016 US presidential election.” The app that Cambridge Analytics developed not only pulled a large amount of information from their users’ Facebook profiles, but gathered a lot of data from users’ entire friend networks as well.


Facebook also collects biometric data from user photos and has been training its facial recognition AI system, DeepFace, to recognize individuals and let users know when a photo of them has surfaced online.

Facebook Pixel

Facebook also collects information from websites that have installed the Facebook Pixel, which benefits website owners, marketing teams, advertisers and, of course, Facebook. Knowing how users act on websites that aren’t Facebook gives Facebook insight into which users are frequent online purchasers, high spenders and committed customers, as well as what kind of products they are actively interested in and researching for a future purchase.

WhatsApp and Other Facebook-Owned Properties

Facebook isn’t the only Facebook product. They also own Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, Portal, Oculus, Facebook Shops and Spark AR. There are a lot of places for Facebook to collect and monetize your data.

In fact, with the regulatory authorities of GDPR, the German authority on data privacy, The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HmbBfDI), has just recently issued an injunction preventing Facebook from processing personal data from WhatsApp.

What Kind of Data Can a Website Owner Access?

If you have a website, you should have the Facebook Pixel installed, especially if you’re in ecommerce. Not only will you get the most out of your Facebook and Instagram advertising by seeing what actions users are taking on your website, but you can benefit from Facebook’s insight into users’ desires with in-market targeting that helps you build an audience of people looking for what you offer. It can also help you target high spenders or frequent online buyers – people that might be more ready and willing to make a purchase online.

There are several ways to understand your audience in the context of your social media pages and advertising campaigns and fine-tune targeting to meet your campaign goals.

Facebook also has its own analytics platform. Though Facebook is removing its Facebook Analytics dashboard on June 30th, 2021, there are still more ways to view this data including in Business Suite, Ads Manager and Events Manager. You can also view this data with third-party tools like Sprout Social.

The benefit of Facebook Analytics is that it measures individuals over ‘hit’ or ‘session’ level data like Google’s Universal Analytics. Maybe the removal is a response to Google releasing GA4, which also focuses on individual users behavior rather than hit data.

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