Starting in 2010, Facebook started giving users the option to download their Facebook data, the collection of posts, photos, friends and even previous locations that Facebook has collected from you over the years.
Until this spring, when Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal became public, a lot of people didn’t even know that this data download was an option. There’s probably a good reason for that: Typically, downloading your user Facebook data is the kind of thing you might do right before you delete your Facebook account altogether.
So it’s interesting, then, that there are a lot of people trying to download their data from Facebook this month. So many, in fact, that it’s causing delays on Facebook’s end as the company tries to fulfill all those data requests.
“Over the past two weeks we’ve experienced a higher volume of Download Your Information requests than usual,” a Facebook spokesperson told Recode when we noticed a few complaints that download requests seemed to be taking a long time. “This means it is taking longer to process the requests. We are working on it and appreciate people’s patience.”
Not all download requests are from users preparing to delete their accounts, of course, though it’s certainly a common process. We also don’t know much about common download requests actually are. How many people normally request their data? Is this spike in traffic rare? How does it compare to previous spikes? Facebook wouldn’t say.
The timing is interesting, though. It’s been one week since The New York Times published a bombshell report about how Facebook’s top executives handled the fallout of the 2016 presidential election, during which Russian trolls used the service to try and sow discord among voters. The NYT story led to a lot of other negative press for the company in the week since, and more calls for people to delete Facebook.
It’s also nearing the end of the year, the time when some users might be preparing to give up social media for the new year.
In either case, Facebook users want their data and they want it now. They’ll just have to be a little patient.