I've been hearing you can download all the information you've shared on Facebook, and I was curious about that, so I did so today. I wanted to see what format it was in as well as what information it contained, and honestly I wanted a copy in case I ever decide to deactivate my account... something I've been pondering a good bit lately.
It's a pretty simple process. Just go to account settings and click the "download a copy of your Facebook data" link at the bottom. On the next screen you get a button to click to start the process, so you click that and walk away — it can take awhile, and you'll get an email when it's finished. That email contains yet another link to click, which takes you back to Facebook again, where you're asked to enter your password to start the download. And really, that's all there is to it... pretty secure and easy.
My archive took about half an hour to process, and the final product was a 43MB zipped file containing subdirectories with html, images, videos, and some text files. I unzipped it and looked through it. It's a mostly self-contained archive which has my private messages along with the public notes, pictures, videos, and status updates (with comments) I've posted over the last few years.
It's slightly incomplete, though. My status updates only go back to April, so the three years prior are missing. That appears to be the only thing missing, though. Every picture and video I've uploaded are present (I think?) and I have various friend lists to browse through, including people I'm currently friends with, people I have pending friend requests with, people who have pending friend requests with me, and a list of who I've deleted (only one person on that list, actually).
I'm not sure what to do with it exactly, but I have it now. Deactivating my account is no guarantee Facebook will delete my data. It wouldn't surprise me if they keep it forever. Apparently knowing that I dig progressive rock and sci-fi movies is important marketing information for advertisers, and Facebook looks more and more like an advertising platform instead of a social network. I think this will become more obvious now that there are stockholders to satisfy, and with a weak IPO I suspect they'll have little choice but to use every trick in the book.