Facebook quietly removed a feature that allowed users to export and sync their friends’ birthdays to an external calendar like iCal, Outlook, or Google Calendar.
While you can still export upcoming events — parties, get-togethers, and the like — the ability to save birthdays disappeared recently, according to Rodrigo Ghedin of the Brazilian tech blog Manual do Usuário, who first reported the change.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Digital Trends that the social network had removed the ability to export birthdays in June, in the hopes of better protecting users’ personal information.
The spokesperson added that under the previous system, a person’s birthday would remain on an external calendar if it had been downloaded, even if that user changed their privacy settings to mark their birthday as private.
Facebook’s birthday reminders have long been one of its most popular features, helping make sure you never miss a friend or loved one’s special day. Birthdays are one of the few pieces of personal data required to start a new Facebook account.
The social networking giant has expanded birthday-related features over the years, allowing users to raise money for a cause on their birthday or create personalized videos to wish someone a happy birthday. The social network often sends users push notifications about friends’ birthdays, hoping it will drive engagement on the platform.
But birthday reminders are also something that tether many people to Facebook. As Facebook faces increasing scrutiny over how it handles users’ private data and people move to delete their accounts, the network is now essentially holding your friends’ birthdays hostage. You can leave, but you can’t take your beloved birthday calendar with you. Facebook, it seems, owns that data. Facebook’s FAQ now says you can only export Facebook events to your external calendar.
According to a Wayback Machine archive, the same page said you could export birthdays as recently as April.
An archived version of the German-language FAQ page discussed the birthday-export feature as recently as June, according to Manual do Usuário.
Facebook still allows you to download all your information, including chat logs, photos, videos, and more — but that option will only export events you’ve created or sent an RSVP to. Your friends’ birthdays aren’t a part of your own personal Facebook record.