Deleting Your Facebook Profile Isn't So Easy

from the they're-saving-it-for-when-you-realize-what-a-huge-mistake-you-made dept

On Friday, we jokingly noted that Bill Gates was erasing his Facebook profile. However, the NY Times is now reporting on just how difficult it actually is to erase your profile on the site. Basically, you can “deactivate” it, but it still exists and can be found by users of the service. Of course, some might argue that it’s rather silly to try to delete anything once you’ve put it online, and that counts for social networking profiles as well as other content.

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Companies: facebook

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Comments on “Deleting Your Facebook Profile Isn't So Easy”

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Jim Durbin (profile) says:

Removing Your Facebook profile is easy

You just have to do something the don’t like. There have been several people “disappeared” without adequate explanation.

Robert Scoble is a perfect example.

Here’s what you do

1) Spam a bunch of Facebook accounts.
2) Send out notes explicitly stating you are being paid by companies separately to write positive reviews of their product
3) Photoshop crude images of Zuckerberg and put them on your wall
4) Upload your entire e-mail contact list into Facebook using their contact upload list. If you have a 1000 names or more, they will probably delete you.

Writing things about them on your blog won’t get you anywhere. You’re going have to take action if you really want to disappear.

Dave says:

I like Jim's idea

My wife got fed up by Facebook recently, no surprise, and she bailed. But I do believe that, as the article states, you can’t actually delete yourself completely.

I went though my profile with a fine-tooth comb and did my best to make my profile as uncompromised as I could, but it was a fairly tricky interface, and even as a nerd, I don’t know if I covered all the bases. Of course, there’s probably stuff you can’t see in the profile that’ll nail ya. I don’t find myself going on there as much anymore, and I still may dump it.

The people I like are the ones who appear in their underwear or less, with the “F me” expression, and then they are shocked, shocked, when they can’t get a job for some reason, or their parents, teachers, and all their peers (oh, let’s not forget stalkers) see them and make comments or worse.

Maybe Jim’s idea will work!

Blaise Alleyne (profile) says:

Still exist? Yes. Still Visible? No.

When you deactivate a Facebook profile, it certainly still exists on their servers. But try telling Robert Scoble that you can still be found.

I’ve had my account deactivated once for angering the spam filter, sending messages to alumni from my high school about upcoming events. My sister has had a run in with the spam filter as well.

When your account is deactivated, you disappear without a trace. It’s like you never existed. It’s more reminiscent of an encounter with the secret service in a Hollywood movie than Hotel California (as suggested in the article).

The data retention policies are still a privacy issue, yes, but I’d bet money that Mr. Das just couldn’t figure out how to deactivate his account. I’d advise him to spend a bit more time on his technical education and a bit less time “threatening legal action.”

Mrrar says:

Uh.. Yeah? RDBS?

Relational Database Systems .. you know.. work that way.

Data can’t be deleted without causing a huge ruckus. It just gets flagged as not-visible.

That’s just how the technology works.

::shrug:: it’s really not a big deal. I hate the scare tactics media uses to imply that it’s some big conspiracy or some crap like that– I’m surprised Tech Dirt didn’t point out the obvious like it normally does (to its credit).

Mrrar says:

Re: Re: Uh.. Yeah? RDBS?

Sure do. You never delete a row. The best you can do is put in null values.

The data itself can never really be deleted. again, i shrug. They’d have to find every piece of data in every table with every row that’s associated with that Facebook profile and Null out every single value. It’s not as simple as “Delete row! yay!”

It actually takes a significant amount of effort to delete something.

It’s far better to just set a “Not Visible” Flag.

But, if you disagree, please be willing to explain why.

KevinW says:

Re: Re: Re: Uh.. Yeah? RDBS?

Almost 20 years experience designing and maintaining large relational databases says why.

Believing that any database worth mentioning, by which I don’t mean M$ Access, actually fails to release space for deleted data is absurd. Believing that it is difficult to “find every piece of related data” in a relational database proves that you have no idea what a relational database is, or at least how to design one. In a properly designed database you can delete every piece of related data with just a few simple queries. A database to manage a site like Facebook would have, or at least could have, a surprisingly simple design with fewer tables then you might expect, perhaps only a couple dozen.

Finally, if you believe that any database management plan for a large database would leave data that is no longer needed or wanted for archival reasons laying around is ridiculous. I’ve worked on DB’s where the indexes alone were too big to load into memory. On a DB this size you delete all unwanted data and recover unused space whenever possible to optimize performance.

Danny Mack says:

They aint the only one....

I just went through the same w/….worse with them was trying to get the emails from stopping. I lost my user/pass, so could not edit my settings. I thought I accomplished it once, but then started to get the emails again months later. Unable to change the settings again and nearly impossible to find a service email, i eventually did. Tha sage continued w/auto gen responses that couldn’t help and so on. After many days and many exchanges, I think I got it to stop….but my point is -> this is NO accident!

Bill B says:

Actually deleting most web content isn't easy

Actually deleting most web content isn’t easy and a large percentage of it can be accessed even a decade later. If you go to sites like (the waybackmachine) you can search there archive and view a large number domains website content. I found that there are some instances where the archive did not crawl some pages or they have not fully integrated them into the database. Even in many cases images were also archived. I did try to look at myspace and get a message that “We’re sorry, access to has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt”

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