2504 Steps to closing your Facebook account.

(edit: Thanks Julien, for introducing me to the awesome destructive power of Digg.) ;)

Yes, it's true! I finally managed to close my Facebook account. It was a long, arduous road - the hardest part was slaying the Gorgon on level 16 - and I'm glad it's finally over.

If you, cherished reader, are wondering why I would do such a thing, then wipe those potato skins off the top of your Bananarama tour t-shirt and keep reading:

I already left Flickr, Myspace, Youtube, and most of the other similar web services because they want to eat our babies. The process was fairly straightforward for each of those (Though Flickr ends it with a pretentious fuck-off: "Thanks for using Flickr. See ya!" Whatever. Goddamn wankers).

Facebook, however, was a much more interesting endeavour. You see, you can't really close your Facebook account once you open it; you can only deactivate it, which I somehow missed when reading their 913 page privacy policy:

Changing or Removing Information

Access and control over most personal information on Facebook is readily available through the profile editing tools. Facebook users may modify or delete any of their profile information at any time by logging into their account [though we don't provide any means to delete more than one item at a time, which is about as enjoyable as having your nose picked by Andre the Giant]. Information will be updated immediately. Individuals who wish to deactivate their Facebook account may do so on the My Account page. Removed information may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time [Eternity is reasonable!] but will not be generally available to members of Facebook and by 'generally', we mean sometimes, and by 'members of Facebook', we don't mean our corporate and government buddies named Clives or Dustin who come golfing with us on the second tuesday of every month, after the Freemason meeting].

Emphasis mine.

When I first wanted to leave Facebroke after seeing an ex-flame post ridiculous badly photoshopped pics of her in a bikini , I must've missed the subtle distinction between 'DEACTIVATE' and 'CLOSE MY FUCKING ACCOUNT YOU GODDAMN CAPUCHINS'.

Maybe it was a gremlin in the system, but I kept receiving emails from Facebook - I couldn't find out how to leave their subscription list. I kept digging until I tried logging in again with my 'deactivated' account. To my surprise, they sent me an email telling me how to 'reactivate' my account - meaning that Facebook still kept a copy of all of my personal data, indefinitely. No offense, guys, but what the fuck?

It's one thing when I choose to leave a web service (Flickr, Youtube) because I don't want them profiting from my content. It's another when they prevent me from leaving. Is this really the only choice we have left? Shitty web companies vs. shitty web companies that keep and distribute your personal data ad infinitum even when you request your account to be closed?

As it turns out, I had to 'contact' facebook and ask them how to delete my account, only to find out that I have to manually delete every single minifeed item, friend, post, wall writing, etc by hand, one-by-one, or else they will refuse to close your account. When you're a member of the Internet High Society as I am, you find that you have thousands of these items to delete.

Here's the complete transcript of the conversation I had with "Lucy From Facebook". You'll find me tedious, boring, petty, and acting like the douchebaggiest dick you'll ever know. In other words, it's just like meeting me in person.

Hello,

I've recently "deactivated" my Facebook account, but cannot find a way
to completely delete my account.

I would like all of my information to be wiped from the facebook
servers.

Please delete my account en related information in its entirety (my
account email address is steven [at] stevenmansour.com), or send me
instructions on how to do so myself.

Thank you for your time,

s.

Hi Steven,

If you deactivate, your account is removed from the site.
However, we save all your profile content (friends, photos,
interests, etc.), so if you want to reactivate sometime, your
account will look just the way it did when you deactivated. If you
do want your information completely wiped from our servers, we
can do this for you. However, you need to remove all profile
content before we can do this. Once you have cleared your
account, let us know and we'll take care of the rest.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

Lucy
Customer Support Representative
Facebook

Hi Lucy,

I've removed all profile content from my account as per your request.
Now, please go ahead and completely delete my account
(steven [at] stevenmansour.com).

The procedure to close an account on Facebook is needlessly convoluted
and unclear. To bring itself inline with privacy policies dictating good
behaviour on the web (see http://www.privacyinternational.org/ ), it
would be a good idea for Facebook to give users a one-step option to
close / delete their account instead of just 'deactivating' it, which is
misleading (if not blatantly dishonest) to users.

Please let me know when my account has been completely destroyed.

Thank you,

Steven Mansour

Hi Steven,

I apologize, but you have not completely deleted all of your
information. You still have incoming and outgoing messages,
wall posts, mini-feed stories, friends, and contact information
remaining on your profile. Once you have completely removed
all information from your account, I will permanently delete it for
you.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

Lucy
Customer Support Representative
Facebook

I'm sorry, but it is unreasonable to expect users to manually delete,
one-by-one, each and every bit of information / friends / "notes" / wall
writings that they've posted or that other users have posted on their
accounts. It would take me hours to delete each wall post and feed
story.

It would be far easier for you to simply delete my account - and asking
me to manually erase each entry is unnecessary.

At this point, you have two choices:

- You can stop giving me the run-around, and just delete my account so
that everyone will be happy, or

- You can refuse to comply with your own privacy policy and user
standards, in which case I will be forced to escalate this situation.

Please advise,

Steven Mansour

Hi Steven,

I apologize for any inconvenience, however this is our privacy
policy for permanently deleting accounts. I am unable to delete
your account unless you have personally removed all of your
information. You may either completely clear your account so
that I can finish this process for you, or you can leave your
account deactivated. Let me know if you have further questions.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

Lucy
Customer Support Representative
Facebook

Lucy from Facebook,

I've removed all my private data.

Close my account.

s.

Hi Steven,

We have processed your request. Let me know if you have any
further issues.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

Lucy
Customer Support Representative
Facebook

Now, most people won't get why this is such a big deal. But it is a big deal. Your personal data, especially on the web, is something that will be increasingly valuable to corporate and government interests - and increasingly important (and, perhaps, difficult) to protect.

I'm reminded of being at the SaveTheInternet.Com party in Memphis (Christ, what the fuck is a "YouTuber"?) where everyone was giving each other handjobs over how they spread the message about Net Neutrality and beat the telecoms with the help of Google and Yahoo. They didn't realize that they helped win the battle, but in doing so, they lost the war. They turned a blind eye to their supposed allies and failed to apply the same yardstick to measure privacy neutrality as they did to network neutrality. Google is ranked as one of the worst privacy firms on the net.

I don't know about you, but I like the idea of being in charge of my own private data, and controlling access to it accordingly. There will be lots of interesting battles fought over this in the next few years, so whatever you do, make sure you think long and hard about just how open you want to be with you own privacy - and whether others will treat it with the same respect as you do.

This handy chart should help you decide who to trust with you data and how to stay ahead of the curve on the interweb of the future:

2007 - 2008 Internet Web Food Chain

Comments

stevenmansour
Thursday, December 13th, 2007
stevenmansour's picture

I planned to violate the terms of service by eg uploading bestiality

Yeah, I imagine the Facebook bestiality group wouldn't be the kind of publicity they'd want.

you still have your facebook link in the footer

Huh? Where? I've never had any link like that.

Encognito
Friday, December 14th, 2007
Encognito's picture

Facebook absolutely retains your personal data. The government, first and foremost, and probably groups with money who want to work on mass purchase scales, will at some time want access to that data. Even beyond the visible life of Facebook will be the business they do with what they have after.

Fighting the Man or the grid probably just got that much harder if you got on Facebook. Sux.

Incognito
Friday, December 21st, 2007
Incognito's picture

I opened a facebook account about a month ago just to check it out. Today I decided I was fed up with all the stupid invitations for applications, requests, posts and "your friend did this", "the other one did that" and so forth. But, oh what a surprise, when I decided to delete the account I only had the option to deactivate it. Before proceeding I looked up in the www about deleting the account and came across this site. Well I did everything stevenmansour suggested and my account was (or wasn't really?) deleted. I actually sent the e-mail at privacy(at)facebook.com telling them I deleted all personal data in the account and wish to have it removed. I got a reply within a few hours from another three-letter named employee (Joe, Pam, Sam etc!) that my account was removed from their systems (or at least this is what they claim!) Anyway when I tried to login afain it didn't say anything about reactivating my account.

Thanks for the advise!

Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Magnus's picture

Hi again,
here's an update of the current status of my group "How to permanently delete your facebook account" as requested.

a) There are currently 2440 members of the group and an additional 1436 who hasn't replied to invitations.

b) Although it's hard to tell if it has an actual effect, I have received a lot of positive feedback. Some from people wanting to delete their account immediately, some joining the group for "future reference". Actually quite a few PMs from people wanting ME to delete their account! :P

c) I haven't received any response/warnings from Facebook's staff.

Here's a screenshot: http://www.freeimagehost.eu/image/69c3611819605

I semi-regularly post updates to the group about Facebook's "evil deeds" and public apologies, but don't actually encourage people to leave Facebook. (That would be, as you point out, mindbogglingly ironic! :) ). I just promote the idea that IF one would like to leave, it should be as simple as clicking a button...

For those of you still members of Facebook and interested in the group, check it out here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=16929680703

Happy new year!

has
Friday, December 28th, 2007
has's picture

Hey, my account has been disabled for apparent misuse. How can i go about deleting all my data, even though now i actually cant login. Data Protection Act is such a great act in UK but dnt know how much i can use it with Facebook.

Incognito
Saturday, December 29th, 2007
Incognito's picture

How can you be sure your personal profile/information is deleted? Facebook can have your information backed up somewhere else. I absolutely believe that Facebook is functioning with the government and/or the freemason-secret society/NWO groups and cataloging all you idiots personal information. Your birth date, hometown, who you know, who you are related to, what you like to eat, your likes/dislikes, your relationships, your thoughts, your actions are all being watched.

Go ahead and throw away your freedom and privacy - [facebook] it's "hip" and "cool"

stevenmansour
Monday, December 31st, 2007
stevenmansour's picture

Magnus:

Thanks for the update! Yeah, it is pretty ironic as you say... but it's a cool idea nonetheless, and it's amazing that you have so many members already! Very cool. Keep up the good work.

Has:

As of right now, you're out of luck when it comes to accessing your private data (even just to delete it). I thought UK privacy laws were better too (at least better than our pitiful Canadian ones), but enforcement seems to be a whole other issue.

Incognito:

That's just the thing - there is no way to be sure. I don't know if I believe in the rabbit hole as deeply as you do, but we agree that people are giving up way more than they are getting back by using an incredibly lame social networks such as Facebook.

Incognito
Saturday, January 5th, 2008
Incognito's picture

haha, i love how my name is "incognito" that's actually my favorite word in a way, anyway. I salute you for this awesome post or whatever it was. WOW. it was so entertaining. I would say better than harry potter books because I actually read every word of this! Kudos to you man. So, even though our facebook is like say completely private, facebook can still access our things? That sucks! It sucks even more for those losers that have their cell phones, land lines, and addresses on there, thinking it's all "private." Anyway, I have one more question. So, the events I create and I give away my address, phone numbers are stored? So, if I delete my events, will it be permanently deleted? Once again, thanks for this post. haha.

stevenmansour
Saturday, January 5th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Hey 'Incognito',

Thanks for your comment - glad you enjoyed the post. Yeah, Facebook and their employees can still see whatever, whenever on your profile. And you're also right about how crazy it is that people put all their contact information on there as well.

I'm not sure about how it works with events, but I wouldn't give Facebook the benefit of the doubt at this point - I'm convinced they just store everything.

Alyssa
Monday, January 7th, 2008
Alyssa's picture

Hey,

Thank you so much for this post! You have no idea what a big help it's been.

I got a facebook about 9 months ago and kept the damn thing, quite unwillingly for the past 9 months, because I have had no way of deleting it..that was until I found you & came across this post!

So thanks again!

stevenmansour
Tuesday, January 8th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Hey Alyssa,

Glad I could help - hopefully Facebook will eventually give users choice on how their data wishes to be used, instead of forcing themselves down the throat of every user regardless of they want to continue to be a part of their network or not.

Cheers!

stevenmansour
Thursday, January 10th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Who the hell is Maddox? You mean that guy from the A-Team who always stayed in the van?

PS - Caps Lock key on your parents' computer is on the left of the keyboard, between 'Tab' and 'Shift', skipper. :D

Incognito
Thursday, January 10th, 2008
Incognito's picture

Here's the body of what I got:
--------
If you deactivate your account, your profile and information associated with it are immediately made inaccessible to other Facebook users. However, we do save your profile content (friends, photos, interests, etc.), so if you want to reactivate in the near future, your account will look just the way it did when you deactivated. Many users deactivate their accounts for temporary reasons and expect their information to be there when they return to the service.

Since the information and content you upload is often stored in many different places within the Facebook file system, there's no easy way for Facebook to remove it all at once. Keep in mind that Facebook does not use deactivated account information, and profile information ceases to be available to general users of the service immediately upon deactivation.

The permanent deletion of this information from all our systems is hastened by your efforts in removing content from the account before deactivation. If you intend to permanently delete all information from your account, you may log in and delete any content or information you don't want stored before deactivating. Once you've done this, let us know, and we'll remove your login email from our system.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,
--------
I don't think they do anything except remove the ability to login to your old account - the key is: "If you intend to permanently delete all information from your account, you may log in and delete any content or information you don't want stored before deactivating."

Sigh.

stevenmansour
Saturday, January 12th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

You're an idiot.

A dingo ate your baby, mate.

You are not Maddox and you are not funny.

You need a dentist.

As an Apple fanboy, I would like to take this moment to say...

FUCK YOU.

:D

Sunday, January 13th, 2008
Andres's picture

This is why you should never give control of your email address to other people, b ut keep control of it everytime.

I hate spam so much that, over the years, I developed a system with which you will receive cero spam every day and when for some reason you receive it, you could delete the source of it at will, because you control the email flow to you, instead of other people controlling the flow.

Watch the system here:
http://www.SafeComputer.org/email-solution

stevenmansour
Monday, January 28th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Privacy is dead.

This website makes me sad

Privacy doesn't die; our instinct to protect it does.

Who my friends are is just no one's business. It's just that simple. Is it so wrong to not want the entire world to know who my friends are? How about if I'm not a criminal, but the government thinks I am? (like all these wiretapping stories).

Most of us aren't criminals, and the long-discredited argument that right-wingers use ("if you don't have anything to hide then you shouldn't worry about your privacy") implies that our private information will never be shared with those who would use it against us. The only answer is, unfortunately, voluntary abstinence from resources that require us to share this data - something harder and harder to do in today's connected world.

If I were to delele my facebook account, would they still have access to all the ISP's I have used and my home and cell phone number?

There is no way to know. Assume, however, that they kept all records of everything you've ever posted - or anything anyone else has ever posted about you.

Incognito
Saturday, February 2nd, 2008
Incognito's picture

You pussed out and complied with her demands. lol.

At this point, you have two choices:

- You can stop giving me the run-around, and just delete my account so
that everyone will be happy, or

- You can refuse to comply with your own privacy policy and user
standards, in which case I will be forced to escalate this situation.

-Lucy, "no"

Dear Lucy from Facebook,

I've removed all my private data.

Close my account.

marianne
Sunday, February 3rd, 2008
marianne's picture

hey, i guess you are making such a big deal out of it u can deactivate it and then you will disappear from others people lists etc...
why ure making such a big of deal
for me i dont have that much of personal informations i mean what did u have your credit card number on your profile??

stevenmansour
Sunday, February 3rd, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Marianne,

It's a big deal not because we don't want to appear on other people's lists, but because we're not comfortable with the idea that such a complete personality profile of ourselves is made available to so many organizations without our knowledge or consent - and that once we make the bad decision / mistake of giving all of it away to Facebook, we can "never" back out or change our minds. That is where the issue lies - other networks let you leave, Facebook doesn't. It's not difficult to understand.

These are serious, important questions that we're trying to get answers to, and if you're fine with sharing your identity with all of Facebook's partners, that's fine, but most of us aren't.

Feise
Sunday, February 3rd, 2008
Feise's picture

Lmao! That was cool dude. I was just wondering - if I delete a wall post that I posted, will it still exist in their database/servers?

On their privacy page it says, "You understand and acknowledge that, even after removal, copies of User Content may remain viewable in cached and archived pages or if other Users have copied or stored your User Content." <--- Does this mean that even if I delete a wall post that I've posted before, it will still exist on their database?

Feise
Sunday, February 3rd, 2008
Feise's picture

Thus, following on from my previous comment, even if you delete all your info from your Facebook, does it mean they still keep archived files of your data even after they've terminated your account (not deactivated)? Which you have worked hard to achieve?

stevenmansour
Monday, February 4th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Hi Feise,

if I delete a wall post that I posted, will it still exist in their database/servers?

As far as we know, they keep an archive of everything you post, ever. I don't doubt that even after closing my account, they kept all my personal data... somewhere.

Raglou
Monday, February 4th, 2008
Raglou's picture

I was wondering how they originally planned to edit accounts of people that have died...

The thing is that you cannot even do that for someone who's actually dead, for you will be hacking his account.
You may only deactivate it, remembering that you have to check the "other" box when they ask why you're considering deactivation.
If you're thinking about deleting every single thing posted, then it's also OK, but assuming you also have email access, you're about to "lie" : you're not going to say you're doing this for the person's dead... and that's because you're a "hacker". From a dumb external point of view.

Just too bad.

Fbook staff are buddhist people, somehow X-]

I'm sick of it.

WillBill
Monday, February 11th, 2008
WillBill's picture

I also suspect something creepy with FB. I had a MySpace profile (and ONLY a MySpace profile) but suddenly started receiving emails asking if Joe Bloggs could be my friend on FB! It was okay, coz I knew "Joe" - BUT, I had never even visited the FB website and suddenly I had a profile??? WTF?? I don't dig that at all (but do Digg it, LOL)

The upside is that I've renewed acquaintance with a lot of ppl on FB and seen groups that I was interested in ... BUT I don't like the Stalinist attitude of these dudes. I agree: you should be able to kill ALL detail in one click. NOT to give that is very, very fishy.

cheers

stevenmansour
Monday, February 11th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

I was wondering how they originally planned to edit accounts of people that have died...

The thing is that you cannot even do that for someone who's actually dead, for you will be hacking his account.
You may only deactivate it, remembering that you have to check the "other" box when they ask why you're considering deactivation.

That's a good point that I hadn't thought about. It seems that not even Death itself can liberate you from Facebook membership.

Just read about you in Aftonbladet (swedish newspaper) and wanted to say thanks for you trying to help - THANNKS!

Thank you for reading!

I agree: you should be able to kill ALL detail in one click. NOT to give that is very, very fishy.

Yeah, that's the whole point - [sinister] what reason could there possibly be for not allowing people to close their accounts? I suspect it has to do with more than just inflating their membership statistics for investors.[/sinister]

GS
Monday, February 11th, 2008
GS's picture

Hello,

you say,

"Your personal data, especially on the web, is something that will be increasingly valuable to corporate and government interests - and increasingly important (and, perhaps, difficult) to protect."

No offense, but weren't you aware of this before you got a Facebook account? I mean, why even get one if you are so concerned about your privacy? (I am, too, and for this reason choose not to have any of the MySpace/Facebook variety accounts).

stevenmansour
Monday, February 11th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Hi GS,

Thanks for your comment.

To answer your question, yes of course I was aware of the issue concerning personal data before I got a Facebook account - though perhaps not to the extent that I am now.

As a web professional, voluntary self-exclusion from Facebook can seem pretty damning. Not because it's a great, intelligently-built network (it isn't) or because it uses some hot new technology to bring people together (it doesn't), but because everyone is looking there right now.

However, the cost of that membership is too high for me. If you take a step back and see what people are agreeing to, it's pretty amazing to witness how everyone is just piling all of their data, photos, private information, and relationship metadata into this one big monolithic system that makes no illusions about using it as it sees fit. It's a psychological profiler's dream come true.

We agree on that; and I concede that it was a mistake to join Facebook.

I do, however, use other social networks. last.fm is useful to me; so is digg. But none of the data I have up on them can be used in any useful way to compromise me now or in the future; that's more than can be said for most people on Facebook.

The sticking point, of course, is that I can leave those other networks whenever I want; while Facebook users can never leave.

Incognito
Thursday, February 14th, 2008
Incognito's picture

I think it's time for people to look at who runs facebook. The following link was provided earlier, and on How to Permanently Delete your Facebook Account group in facebook.

http://www.albumoftheday.com/facebook/

That's scarier to me than advertising people.

Monday, February 11th, 2008
Fasad Ki Jar's picture

Yellow,

saw your quote on nytimes.com
Nice Work canadian online comunity developer!!!

I'm creating a new social networking site called AssBook
So be on the lookout for it ;)

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/11/technology/11facebook.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5087&em&en=dba4aa893be4b0f9&ex=1202878800

FasadKiJar

Ysa
Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
Ysa's picture

Just a fleeting 'philosophical' thought:

I am amazed at people who had spent a certain amount of time on FB, filling their account with a certain amount of content, expect to delete all that accumulated virtual energy with just one click.

If you move from your house, leave your job, finish a project, decide to break off a relationship, basically anything into which you had invested a certain amount of energy, you need to (should?) clean up the clutter you had left behind.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely agree FB practices of retaining information are WRONG, but at least they've taught you about *wink* sharing confidential information with a lot more consideration in the future.

(and, with small letters, in brackets: as well as rid you of some childish irresponsibility. Maybe.) *wink*

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
RB's picture

hey steven.
i just violated their terms of service by adding as many friends as possible on my profile, kept going past their "slow down" function and getting temporarily banned five or six times until i told them to go fuck themselves and they deleted my profile in its entirety, info, pictures, everything.
worked like a charm...
cheers.
rb.

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
RB's picture

plus, i never posted any information that was real about myself, my birthdate, name, location, or any work or personal info.
i do regret posting pictures of my children, but i deleted those before i wanted out.
cheers.
rb.

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
Mr Cool's picture

I too had this same problem.. i tried to delete but facebook refuses to delete my information.

now i have a fake profile filled with tons of applications... it makes my page impossible to load on a average computer... LOL

just think of all the pictures/ information stored on their servers... things could seriously be misused... or sold.

Ky
Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
Ky's picture

Steve,
Thank you for raising such public awareness.
There's something that came to my mind just now, do you think they can store your credit card number by any means? For example if you buy anything through the network? I mean do they treat your credit card number as your personal information and keep it indefinitely as well, isn't this illegal?

WillBill
Wednesday, February 13th, 2008
WillBill's picture

I see that FB is now conceding a bit ... check out: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/technology/13face.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

Things are looking up but I for one don't trust them at all. Pity tho: their interface is more attractive and nicer to work with than MySpace.

cheers

stevenmansour
Wednesday, February 13th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

another approach is to spam people or do something else to get your account suspended. get it reactivated, and then do it again. they threaten to permanently delete your account after that. might work.

Yeah, others have mentioned that in the comments here too. However, there's no real way to know if they actually delete your account, or just deactivate it and hide your profile.

If you move from your house, leave your job, finish a project, decide to break off a relationship, basically anything into which you had invested a certain amount of energy, you need to (should?) clean up the clutter you had left behind.

Your comparison is not valid; we don't create revenue for the people moving into our house by giving up our personal data, Ysa. ;) The "clutter" is actually our own personal data and is the building block of Facebook's profits; why should the onus be on us to remove it?

There is no such thing as "virtual energy"; the digital world is binary, and the beauty of informatics is that it let us manipulate data en masse.

What about signing facebook's emails ( like you list above ) up for spam and all kinds of marketing material? If we had a whack of people signing up these addresses they would be overwhelmed ...

I wouldn't be adverse to that, but it takes a lot of energy to move a campaign like that forward. Care to start? ;)

i just violated their terms of service by adding as many friends as possible on my profile, kept going past their "slow down" function and getting temporarily banned five or six times until i told them to go fuck themselves and they deleted my profile in its entirety, info, pictures, everything.
worked like a charm...

Good work! Any way to game the system is a good one in my book. We should make a list of all these techniques that people are using to close their accounts and put it all in one place.

Hmmm... it's mind-blowing that we need "techniques" to close our accounts.

i do regret posting pictures of my children, but i deleted those before i wanted out.

Those pictures of your children are still there. All photos on my closed account, even now, are accessible via a direct URL in my browser. More proof that they keep all of our data.

now i have a fake profile filled with tons of applications... it makes my page impossible to load on a average computer... LOL

Hah, that's pretty brilliant. If more users did that, it would create some serious / hilarious problems.

There's something that came to my mind just now, do you think they can store your credit card number by any means? For example if you buy anything through the network? I mean do they treat your credit card number as your personal information and keep it indefinitely as well, isn't this illegal?

It's not illegal, but it's scarier with Facebook than with other networks. Assume that if you've ever fed your credit card information through Facebook, that it's stored there forever along with the rest of your personal data - even after you deactivate or delete your account.

I see that FB is now conceding a bit ... check out: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/technology/13face.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin...

Thanks for the update WillBill - I agree with you totally and have posted a follow-up article on their response here.

stevenmansour
Monday, February 25th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Minoru Hacker Guy,

Thank you for your comment.

Heh. I find it funny that you can insult someone for telling you that a company is keeping your private information.

Who insulted who? Did someone insult each other in the comments? Please let me know. If you're referring to the comment above yours, I didn't feel insulted.

Sush
Tuesday, February 26th, 2008
Sush's picture

Hi, Can you give me the email address of this facebook customer service rep?. I cant even seem to find one listed on their webpage. I have deactivated my accoutn and like yourself am finding the process more painful than pulling my nails out. Why is it this hard? It is after all my own information.

Thanks

Mrs Incognito
Monday, March 3rd, 2008
Mrs Incognito's picture

can someone help me understand exactly what's going on here.
from reading this, and other articles, i have pieced together the following:

Facebook keeps a record of your data (pictures, messages, age, location etc.) somewhere in their system.
They for some (unknown?)reason do their best to keep this data even when you 'deactivate' your account.
The reason is most likely something to do with thirdparties, that for some (again unknown?)reason want this information.
The most likely reason these third parties want(buy?) this info from FB is for marketing/spamming/promoting?

Is that about right? If so, then:

-I'm guessing FB aren't the only ones doing this. Is everything i'm typing right now being stored somewhere, available to anyone with the proper knowledge?

-Again, if this information, or information i'm giving out on other sites (ie Myspace, hotmail, gaming forums etc.)is being stored, what is being done with it? Why is it being stored? Again does it come back to marketing and spamming? Or should we be concerned about individuals knowing where we live and having access to our bank accounts etc.

-I'm assuming this is what is meant when people talk about leaving your "footprints" online.

-What sort of actions can I/we take to prevent this breach of our privacy? Are you saying I simply can't communicate with friends online? use eBay? browse pages?

It kind of seems like whatever is happening, it's far too huge and too complex to stop. It's like you've got two choices: (1) Use the internet and give up your basic rights to privacy, or (2) don't use the internet.

stevenmansour
Monday, March 3rd, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Hi Mrs Incognito,

Thank you for your questions. Here are my responses:

Facebook keeps a record of your data (pictures, messages, age, location etc.) somewhere in their system. They for some (unknown?)reason do their best to keep this data even when you 'deactivate' your account. The reason is most likely something to do with third parties, that for some (again unknown?)reason want this information. The most likely reason these third parties want(buy?) this info from FB is for marketing/spamming/promoting?

They keep a record of all your data (including political affiliations, religion, friends and contacts, location, etc) permanently. They go to great lengths to holding onto this. The reason has to do with third parties, possibly for marketing, possibly for government / tracking initiatives.

-I'm guessing FB aren't the only ones doing this. Is everything i'm typing right now being stored somewhere, available to anyone with the proper knowledge?

You're right, but there's a big difference - no one has ever done it in such a structured, comprehensive and complete manner as Facebook. The information we willingly provide to Facebook allows them to build a very complete profile about each and every user, available to whoever Facebook chooses to provide this information to (or whoever can hack into the Facebook server, which is not all that difficult).

-Again, if this information, or information i'm giving out on other sites (ie Myspace, hotmail, gaming forums etc.)is being stored, what is being done with it? Why is it being stored? Again does it come back to marketing and spamming? Or should we be concerned about individuals knowing where we live and having access to our bank accounts etc.

For most sites, I think it's safe to assume that they store and share this data to generate marketing revenue. However, for larger entities such as Facebook, Google or Yahoo, many believe that their data is being used in a more serious - and sinister - way.

-I'm assuming this is what is meant when people talk about leaving your "footprints" online.

Yes, though keep in mind that some footprints are larger, deeper and easier to track than others.

-What sort of actions can I/we take to prevent this breach of our privacy? Are you saying I simply can't communicate with friends online? use eBay? browse pages?

You can expect a reasonable amount of privacy proportional to a reasonable online usage pattern. Using eBay, chatting with your friends and browsing pages likely won't land you into the deep end of privacy matters. Submitting your entire personal data profile to Facebook, allowing Google to scan all your purchases and emails, and using your Yahoo ID every time you go online, however, will definitely result in your privacy being compromised in a more serious manner.

It kind of seems like whatever is happening, it's far too huge and too complex to stop. It's like you've got two choices: (1) Use the internet and give up your basic rights to privacy, or (2) don't use the internet.

The point is not to stop what's happening - it's to educate users into understanding their rights when they go online. One of those rights is a reasonable expectation of privacy. An educated user base can and will change the status quo of monolithic companies abusing their positions of power / popularity to blatantly defy privacy principles. The choice is, unfortunately, not as simple as you put it. Some of us want to use the Internet, yet be in control of how our data is shared and who we share it with.

I don't think that's an unreasonable request.

Mrs Incognito
Wednesday, March 5th, 2008
Mrs Incognito's picture

Thanks heaps for the reply, it's cleared up alot.

You right though, it's certainly not an unreasonable request to be in control of how our data is shared.

There are no guarantee's that even if i delete my FB account they'll delete all my records as well. I guess all i can do is hope any information i've put out there in cyberspace is not used against me in someway.

It is rather concerning realising that these major corporations are building and keeping profiles of all of us - without our knowledge or consent. Sort of scary thinking what it is they plan on doing with it...

Incognito
Tuesday, April 1st, 2008
Incognito's picture

Can somebody tell me the email address of the person/ people I have to contact at face book to get me removed? I have removed everything possible from my account, deactivated it but now dont know who to mail as per your instructions above!
cheers thaks
liam

Tye
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008
Tye's picture

Great read. Article Im using for my paper on facebook invovles your situation so thanks for my future A+ term paper

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008
eeblet's picture

Great article! Not-so-ok-cupid has a similar sort of approach... I deleted my account a long while ago, and it manages to show up on the first page of google searches for my handle (I know, I know, I'm a dumbass for using my usual handle - but I'm an honest kind of gal). I just wrote this letter:
----
Hi there,

I don't mean this personally to whoever is paid to read emails like this, but....

What the hell, you lazy bastards?

"OkCupid may archive information, including personal information, you provide in the course of using our services and any other aspects of the OkCupid Web site. We store that information on servers that are controlled by us or by third parties who have agreed to comply with our commitments made under this Privacy Policy and with whom we have a contractual relationship. Archived information will not ordinarily be erased unless and until your entire account with OkCupid is deleted, and even then we may retain some or all of your information on back-up files; provided, however, we assume no obligation or guarantee to archive any information and do not warrant that any archived information will later be made available to you."

So does archiving information include the right to display inactive users in google searches?

Hundreds of inactive users show up in google results as such. No, you're not legally required to have those pages be "no crawl" to search robots, but it sure would be nice for folks to not have OkCupid accounts associated with their handles in perpetuity.

C'mon, be less evil.

Cheers,
Beth
----

Has anyone else had this problem? Does anyone know of a solution?

stevenmansour
Monday, April 7th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Hi Tye,

Good luck on your term paper!

Beth,

Of course, the issues raised by this post and the comments within apply to all social networks and not just Facebook. Google rank is a strange creature, though, and sometimes it's hard to find where the fault lies when they're still bringing up pages that you requested be closed from somewhere else.

Thursday, April 10th, 2008
papersun's picture

I don't see what the big deal about Facebook's privacy issues is. You really think that these other sites that supposedly offer "easy" ways of deleting accounts don't still retain the personal info? You really think that your personal data isn't floating around somewhere in the ether of cyberspace? Our information is scattered all over the world nowadays. It's not even relegated to the Internet. Every time you fill out a form somewhere, they require your social security number and a ritual sacrifice of your first born and perhaps your pet. There's simply no escaping this reality. We live in the information age, and being paranoid about what information Facebook is or isn't retaining is simply an exercise in futility. If they're not selling your information, someone else is. I suppose you can take precautions, but honestly, we're all the biatches of the society we've helped create.

--Jeremy

Incognito
Monday, April 14th, 2008
Incognito's picture

dude i deactivated my facebook account,deleted all the notifiaction apps n shit, and finally i got this form them
"You can reactivate your account at any time by logging in with your email and password."

now how am suppose to contact the customer service representative so that they completely del. my account so that i can't "You can reactivate your account at any time by logging in with your email and password."

ricky

stevenmansour
Thursday, April 17th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Papersun,

No one ever said that other sites don't retain our personal info. They just don't harvest and request things on such a personal and structured level as Facebook does, and on such a large scale. If you think this is about paranoia you're looking at it from the wrong angle; it's far more about ensuring that people recognize the dangers and problems with submitting too large a part of their lives to a single corporation or entity.

MetalHead
Thursday, April 17th, 2008
MetalHead's picture

Hello all,

Wow, I am glad to have found this website. After hearing rumors about Facebook's secret ops on people (whether they are true or not); nonetheless, this concerned me. I was desperately looking for ways to delete my Facebook account and then I found this website. I followed your steps Steven and it worked (or at least I think so)!

____________________________________________________________________________________________
Here is my communication with Facebook:

Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2008 18:16:21 -0400 (EDT)
From: E-MAIL ADDRESS
To: privacy@facebook.com, comment-info-rt@facebook.com, info@facebook.com
Subject: Delete Account Completely

To Whom It May Concern:

I have deleted ALL of my private information on my profile. That being
said, I wish my account to be deleted permanently with my e-mail ( E-MAIL ADDRESS ). Additionally, the procedure to close an account on Facebook is needlessly convoluted and unclear. To bring itself inline with privacy policies dictating good behavior on the web
(see http://www.privacyinternational.org/ ), it would be a good idea for Facebook to give users a one-step option to close / delete their account instead of just 'deactivating' it, which is misleading (if not blatantly dishonest) to users. If you do not comply with this request, I will take further action. Again, delete my account and please notify me when my profile is completely deleted. Thank you.

James

--------------------------
FIRST REPLY FROM FACEBOOK
--------------------------
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2008 15:20:09 -0700
From: "Facebook Support" Block Address
Subject: Re: Delete Account Completely
To: E-MAIL ADDRESS

Hi,

Facebook User Operations has received your inquiry. We should get back
to you soon. In the meantime, we encourage you to review our Help page
(http://www.facebook.com/help.php). There, you'll find answers to many
common questions.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

Facebook User Operations

---------------------------
SECOND REPLY FROM FACEBOOK
---------------------------
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2008 16:52:35 -0700
From: "Facebook Support" Block Address
Subject: Re: Delete Account Completely
To: E-MAIL ADDRESS

Hi James,

We have deleted your profile information and removed your email address
from our login database. Please let me know if you have further
questions or concerns.

Thanks,

Brooke
User Operations
Facebook
____________________________________________________________________________________________

To my surprise, it took faster than I thought it would. I was believing it would take at least a couple days or so. Sorry Steven for using some of your words in my e-mail but I figured it would give it an "edge" in order for them to do it or else, ya know? lol Well, thanks again. Great advice and more people ought to know about this.

stevenmansour
Thursday, April 17th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

MetalHead,

It's good to see that they're at least trying to clean up their act a little. I'm glad all the uproar raised by us forced them to change their policies a little (not enough yet though), so that you can get your account closed much more easily.

No worries about using my stuff, that's what it's there for.

khaled
Friday, April 18th, 2008
khaled's picture

I just now contacted facebook about the situation, I have already tried the forgot password option, I think the hacker has change my email and password also....... what should I do??? man please help me if u can... thx alot.

stevenmansour
Friday, April 18th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Sorry khaled, I don't work for Facebook so I can't help you. Try emailing Facebook instead.

ns
Friday, April 18th, 2008
ns's picture

i recently tried to change my age in my facebook account, and then they personally deleted my account for breaking the rules. however, i am thirteen AND i am enrolled in a high school.
anyone know whether or not i can get my account back?
the lady that emailed me about their final decision to close my account didn't reply to anything i sent, so i sent an additional message to customer service from the site.
my account was well established, and i am sort of upset that everything i had on it just got wiped off the face of the earth...:/

stevenmansour
Saturday, April 19th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Well ns, not much we can do here since 1) most of us choose not to be on Facebook, and 2) none of us work for them. :)

It's a good example, though, of why you should never rely on Facebook to store all of your valuable stuff.

SeanIvy
Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
SeanIvy's picture

-----------------------------------------------

Quote:

We have deleted your profile information and removed your email address
from our login database. Please let me know if you have further
questions or concerns.

-----------------------------------------------

Just saw the above from an earlier "reply" from Facebook.

Did anyone else notice they said they "deleted your profile info" not "All personal data stored on our servers" and "removed your email from our login database" not "deleted your email from our database(s)"

This makes me worry, and happy that I found your site before I got into facebook full tilt.

Incognito
Tuesday, May 6th, 2008
Incognito's picture

Hello,

I just found this sight in my effort to find info about deleting my son's FB account. In a post way up on this page, somebody said something along the lines of that the reason FB makes it difficult to erase your info is that it helps track pedophiles, etc.

The response was, "Nope, that's bullshit. It has nothing to do with tracking pedophiles or predators, especially on Facebook, which has an older crowd, than, say, Myspace."

Unfortunately, this is not completely true. My son, and a scary # of kids he goes to school with are 12, have lied about their age, and have registered themselves as part of a high school group. Not really understanding what FB was, I didn't make a big deal about it. At the time, it somehow didn't make it through my thick head that I was condoning lying. My son was so excited about FB because by the end of the evening his horizons had been dramatically broadened - lots of friends, etc.

In an effort to learn more, I created an account for myself, and invited him to be my friend. He remains my only one. I am seeing things that are clearly not intended for kids. The Bathroom Wall being the most recent. Not to mention the fact that I noticed today that our phone # is right on his profile for the world to see. A reverse phone # look-up provides our home address to the world. This is so scary. He sister is 9, and her name has been mentioned by others on his wall. The name of the school they attend is readily available. I feel like they and all of the other kids are sitting ducks.

I had a conversation with him about some of this a few days ago, but hadn't actually noticed yet that our phone # was on there. I am quite confident that when he is further educated, he will be "scared" into agreeing to delete his account. The tough thing is that all of those kids are blissfully unaware of what the big picture is with FB, and I know that my son will feel as though he is compromising himself socially. Anyway, if anyone has anything constructive to say or anything else I should know, I'd sure appreciate it. Please don't berate me for not being on top of what he is doing on the internet. The computer is very visible in our kitchen, and he told me what he was doing with FB. I (and he) simply didn't understand the reality of it.

Thank you.

stevenmansour
Thursday, May 8th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

Hi Incognito,

Thanks for your input and for sharing your experience. When I dismissed the comment that purported that FB keeps user information to help track abuse and dangerous situations, I wasn't saying that that kind of thing doesn't go on in Facebook - just that it's not a reason of theirs to spy on their users. I'm sure that Facebook, along with most other networks aimed at adults, have lots of young people on them.

In Facebook's defense, their service is clearly marketed as not-intended for kids (though they probably don't do enough to enforce that). As much as I like to swipe at Facebook ;) , there are tons of places even in the real world (bars, clubs, etc) "not intended for kids" but where they get in anyways. Hiding behind a computer screen just makes it easier for thme.

It is, in fact, scary that your number, full name, and other photos and personal info is on the site.

Heck, I'm in my 20s and I felt like I was compromising myself socially when I first left Facebook... now, though, it's the other way around - less time spent on fake virtual connections means more time to spend on real, meaningful relationships.

Thanks again,

s.

Shawn McKay
Thursday, May 15th, 2008
Shawn McKay 's picture

Hi lucy,
I have two facebook accounts and I want both of them deleted. The first one I have had I dont know the password and i deleted that email i used for it a long time ago but I still can see it on facebook. Please help me and delete both.
thanks

Incognito
Wednesday, May 28th, 2008
Incognito's picture

I find you on the Net, when I start to search for help in a matter of permanently closing Facebook account; Few minutes ago, I was deleting my account, and in the middle of this, somehow I was interrupted!!!! this was a message from bullies from Facebook:

-Your account is temporarily unavailable due to site maintenance. It should be available again within a few hours. We apologize for the inconvenience.

I'm totally p....d off!!!!!!!!
help me!!!
Tanja

Precious Life i...
Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008
Precious Life is Mine's picture

An interesting story/experience and I can certainly relate to your concerns about privacy.

[But] why did you not think about this as an issue before you made public so much of yourself?

You have "publisher's remorse".

I just can get you out of my mind. There is no pill to erase the memories.

Don't put anything anywhere on the web unless you want to nail it to the tree in the town square of every town in America (now the world) for everyone to read and have it stay there forever - long after you wish you hadn't put it there.

That's the new old web.

???
Monday, June 16th, 2008
???'s picture

once again...why did you guys leave your real information on ANY WEBSITE????!!!!....

PK
Wednesday, June 25th, 2008
PK's picture

Nice to see that I am not the only person who are annoyed by facebook!

I have the same problem with deleting my account. i just emailed facebook asking them to delete my account permanently and still waiting for answer. I deleted all applications, pictures, friends etc. Is it possible that they will ask me to delete all wall messages i posted?(but i can't since i just erased all contacts, hence not able to track down all my posts). What i know about databases, to delete a table entry(in this case the main "personal info" table) doesnt require deleting every entries in other tables referring to that main table.

Another thing that annoys me, is that they require you to use your real name, so entering a nickname like "sunshine" will result in an error. When everyone are using real names it is alot easier to find lost friends on facebook etc, but it should definetely be an option in my opinion, or else you would think that they are using this information for other purposes.

Anyways they should rename facebook to historybook since everything is stored forever, and as we all know history cannot be erased. But let us all hope that facebook is just another trend that dies out, hopefully soon.

Incognito
Monday, July 21st, 2008
Incognito's picture

Hey, as a FB hater/afficionado,

do you know if facebook officially "owns" all the data in the email you provided them with (username/id thing) .... this idea scares the shit out of me, more than my actualy facebook account. . . . . . . i have so many things in there......

thansk for asnwering.. no one else really knows.

Incognito
Monday, July 28th, 2008
Incognito's picture

Thanks for this post, Steven. When you mentioned the ex-flame, that was one of my biggest factors in pushing away this godawful Facebook stuff. Before the exes just had to deal with stuff - cards, pictures, clothes left behind, etc.

Now we got what... wall posts, messages, photos by other people. It's like a time capsule mocking you right in the face.

But honestly, joking aside you raised good issues here. I don't like thinking that we've been debased into automatons - just going with popularity votes / "it's so easy" w/o thinking about what we're really getting into. I wondered why I could always go back and everything was left as they were before; even MySpace isn't this hard-a**ed about letting its users go. I went away just fine from MySpace. I'm giving myself 'til the end of the week to completely unplug - collecting real life friends' contact info and all that. Those pictures will definitely not be missed.

Just my personal opinion.

Fred Flintstone
Monday, August 4th, 2008
Fred Flintstone's picture

Simple solution... don't give out your private data. Gave it away of your own free choice and then whine when it's out there for the world to see. Get a clue people, once something is out there on the internet it is essentially there FOREVER. Sure they could delete it but that's not so say there aren't already thousands of cached versions out there which are completely out of their control.

Fred Flintstone
Monday, August 4th, 2008
Fred Flintstone's picture

Fricken hilarious... seriously... the very next site Stumble Upon sent me to after hitting this site....

http://www.spokeo.com/?g=su_i

Le Pew
Thursday, August 7th, 2008
Le Pew's picture

Oh wow! How fun is this page!

I have just deactivated my FB account and I was wondering why I did it....So I decided to google "Why I left facebook" to see what others had to say and behold I got in here. Been reading for about half an hour and now I'm just wishing I never bothered with FB in the first place.

Oh well...I dunno what to do next...I'll just wait for the free-flow-of-information bomb to explode and then pick up the pieces...in the meantime I'll try hard to divorce my mind's nagging convictions about the truth this page has provided from my day-to-day life. All in the hope that I can carry on in sound-proofed indifference...or whatever..lol....

Somebody please bring back April 12th so I can stop myself from joining the Stalinist website called facebook!!!!

stevenmansour
Monday, August 11th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

@Shawn McKay, Tanja: The only way to get your undeletable account problem sorted out is by contacting Facebook directly. Hope you got everything fixed.

@PreciousLife, ???, Fred Flinstone:

[But] why did you not think about this as an issue before you made public so much of yourself?

I'm not arguing about how public we choose to make ourselves and our identities. The data we put out there on the web is, by definition, open - my gripe lies with being subversively usurped from being in control of our own data and content, and relinquishing that ownership to Facebook and other organizations.

@PK: Did you successfully get your account deleted?

@Incognito1: Not sure what you mean. They don't own anything in your email account of course.

@Incognito2:

I don't like thinking that we've been debased into automatons

Same here. The commodification of our personal relationships is one of the great tragedies going on right now, and [almost] no one seems to give a shit. ;)

@Le Pew: Stalinist? Don't you mean Fascist? ;)

@Spyko: Don't do it man!

Diana
Sunday, August 17th, 2008
Diana's picture

hey, well I just deactivated my facebook account, I dont quite know what does that even mean,I really dislike facebook and there es pretty much nothing anybody can do because there is actually pictures of you that are actually other people's and facebook property, come on what the fuck where we thinking in the first place. it is very very bad, I would definetely manually delete my shit, but thats not really gonna chge anything, and it is gonna take me like 3 years, etf do I do? Im really frustrated... I AM,

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