A "Videos" link essentially does the same thing. Your videos are there in the standard MP4 format, which Facebook otherwise doesn't let you download. This archive can be useful if you've lost your original footage.
— The "Friends" link gives me an alphabetical list of friends, and in a handful of cases, their email addresses. I can get so much more on Facebook, including phone numbers and hometowns, but leaving that out lets your friends decide later not to share those details with you.
— The "Events" link gives me a list of birthday parties and other gatherings I've been invited to, but I don't get information on which friends were attending and what they posted about the event. I do get links, though, to the Facebook page with that information, but I need to be online and signed in to Facebook.
— "Messages" gives me a record of my Facebook conversations, including replies from friends and some chats, while "Profile" offers biographical information I already know about myself.
Last month, Facebook began to offer an expanded version of my archives, promising information on friend requests, events attended or declined and the numeric Internet Protocol addresses of computers I've used.
The most interesting part was the list of people I've unfriended and those who have ignored my friend requests so far (you know who you are, and I know where you live). I also got a list of people I have ignored.
I question the usefulness of the list of data cookie IDs tied to my account. These cookies can be used to build a digital dossier and target ads to my interests, but seeing "3oF9T2zf3fXcYM6TunBbZ5bG" tells me nothing about what Facebook is doing. I also question the need to know what IP addresses were used to access my account, except perhaps to see whether any unauthorized users might have hacked it.
As I looked through the files, I realized they felt pretty empty compared with the site. Facebook's utility is in the connections with friends, not the specific images or musings I post on the site. A data archive can't fully capture the dynamics of those connections.
I'm glad Facebook offers this feature, and I intend to create snapshots every so often. But for now, my Facebook data is most useful on Facebook, not stored away on my computer.
Anick Jesdanun, deputy technology editor for The Associated Press, can be reached at njesdanun(at)ap.org.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.