Data portability comes to Facebook.

And this is what you get.

It may not look like much, but it’s a huge leap forward for the Internet’s most popular social network. And since you may not yet have this option — it’s currently being rolled out to users around the world — here’s what you can expect…

Just like the introductory video says, when the option to download your data becomes available, you’ll see it by following this path:

Account > Account Settings > My Account > Settings

There will be an option to “Download Your Information” near the bottom of that screen. Click on that and you’ll be asked to re-enter your account password; after that you’ll be instructed to wait for an email with a secure link to download your data. I got mine in less than fifteen minutes

Following the link in my email yielded a 27MB zipped file containing everything I’ve contributed to Facebook since I joined in 2007, in HTML format with minimal CSS styling. The hi-res photos uploaded from my various Nokias have been downsized to whatever Facebook uses for a native screen resolution; the few videos I’ve uploaded appear to be untouched.

Here’s the big thing: Comments from other users on my statuses, links, notes, etc. were included in my download. This is the right way to do it I think, as discussion threads would have little value without the context provided by others. But if you’re in the habit of spreading hate amongst your Facebook friends you should be aware that they’ll now be able to publicly call you out on it with hard evidence downloaded from the network.

I’ve still got some issues with it but I have to face the simple fact that Facebook is where most of my friends are. I’ll leave it to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to go over the finer points of how things could be improved further, but I think we’re both in agreement that data portability is a huge step forward for its users.

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