Facebook’s New “Download Your Information” Feature is an Early Christmas Present for Lawyers
In the past, preserving and collecting user profiles on Facebook was a daunting task of screenshots, printing pages, and downloading potentially hundreds of individual files and photos. A Facebook profile can now be obtained for review using the simple procedure outlined at the end of this post.
Time will tell why Facebook decided to implement this feature. Facebook may have become weary of responding to an avalanche of subpoenas and preservation letters. Perhaps they just haven’t found a way to charge for responding to legal requests as Google has. Regardless of the intent, this feature will greatly assist in gathering Facebook profiles in litigation.
- Profile page with all of the user’s information.
- The users’s “Wall” with all status updates.
- Replies/comments to all user contents, including status updates and photos.
- A complete list of Facebook friends.
- Events to which the person RSVP’d.
- A listing of all photos with the time of the upload
- A complete list of the elusive Facebook messages (email) with the entire conversation thread with timestamps.
Limits of the Downloaded Information
With the great advantages this feature provides, I feel compelled to disclose issues that this beneficial feature will not address.
- For starters, you will either need to have the Facebook username and password or rely on the other party to perform this procedure and provide the file to you. In other words, full cooperation or an appropriate subpoena or order will be needed.
- If you are dealing with one of those pesky people that may decide to do a little “house cleaning” before the process is started, you will not have this deleted information (if you don’t tell them, neither will I).
- The information does not include the Holy Grail of instant messaging conversations, but these are often recoverable with a computer forensic analysis of the person’s hard drive.
- Lastly, this procedure will only gather information from the designated user’s profile. It will not reveal posts to the walls of other Facebook users.
Since Christmas is fast approaching, I would like to ask Facebook to add the simple feature of mapping a Facebook user to the groups they have joined and the pages they have “liked” and any Facebook instant messages that are available.
How To Download Facebook Information
1. On the upper right hand side of the Facebook page, choose Account-Account Settings.
2. You will be presented with the “My Account” page.
3. Toward the bottom of the page, you will see the “Download Your Information” option.
4. After choosing this option, Facebook will notify you that they will send a download link when the process is complete. Be patient, it could take a while.
5. Once the process is complete, you will receive an email from Facebook with the subject “Your Download Is Ready”.
6. After clicking on the embedded link in the email, you will be presented with a password authentication screen.
7. Upon entering the correct password for the account, you will be provided with the “Download Now” Button.
8. Choose the appropriate place to save the file to your computer’s hard drive.
9. Treat this information the same way that you would any other document of potential relevance by making multiple copies (preserving) and placing the copies with the appropriate information in a safe place.
10. Once you have backup copies properly preserved, unzip the file using your favorite application to handle zip files (WinZip, 7zip, WinRAR, Windows extractor, etc.).
11. There will now be a folder named with random numbers.
12. Double-click the folder from the previous step, then double-click the index.html file. You now have an offline Web page that has the Facebook information for that profile.