Online security Expert: 'While social media is free, we the user are the product'

BOSTON -- Have you ever wondered how much Facebook knows about you?

As Boston 25 News reporter Elysia Rodriguez explains, many users may have unknowingly handed over their entire address book.

Earlier this month, the social media giant admitted that Cambridge Analytica, a company linked to President Donald Trump's campaign, improperly accessed and stored data from tens of millions of users.

Many people are now asking just how much info Facebook has on them, and the short answer is: as much as you give them.

“Anything and everything you plug in right now in the past and in the future can and will be used against you in some shape or form,” Robert Siciliano, a security analyst with internet security company HotSpot shield, said.

Siciliano called the breach a wake-up call.

“If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone about something that showed up on Facebook and said, ‘isn’t it weird how they know that?’ Well that’s how they know that, because you’re giving them all that information and scientifically they’re breaking down that data,” he said.

Click here for directions about how to learn what information Facebook has about you, but be prepared for a potential trip down memory lane. Pictures, posts and messages, even ones you thought you deleted, live on.

But what has surprised users the most is what is in your stored contact information -- numbers and emails of everyone stored in your phone. In some cases, there's even a running log of every text and phone call you make.

It’s a feature on phones that use the Android operating system and ties into the Messenger or Facebook Lite apps.

A news release from Facebook said: “This helps you find and stay connected with the people that you care about, and provides you with a better experience across Facebook.”

“There certainly is a convenience aspect of all this and we give up a certain amount of privacy and freedom for those conveniences. What people don’t understand is that while social media is free, we the user are the product and we are what’s being sold,” Siciliano told Boston 25 News.