Facebook Lasts a Lifetime

An article in the New York Times today discusses the challenges facing a user looking to delete their profile information. As many users have experienced, you must physically go in an delete every single thing that you’ve ever posted in order to remove any footprint of yourself on the site. Every word that you type into their system makes it that much harder to clean your profile.

Have you posted on application pages? Have you sent hundreds or thousands of messages? How many wall posts have you made? Every single thing that you’ve ever written must be deleted in order to thoroughly clear out your Facebook footprint. Even then, Facebook may archive all the information that you’ve posted to the site. There’s also no telling how long that information will remain archived. Facebook states in their privacy policy that they can store information for a “reasonable period of time.”

What may be reasonable to Facebook may not be reasonable to you though. Unfortunately there is no way of determining when and if Facebook has removed your data but according to Amy Sezak, spokeswoman for Facebook, “Deactivated accounts mean that a user can reactivate at any time and their information will be available again just as they left it.” So given that you can get your info back at anytime must mean that they don’t delete your information.

We still feel comfortable providing them with that information and as I argued yesterday, that information may eventually include our browsing patters outside of the social network. Do you trust Facebook with your information considering they will store it indefinitely? Do you think they should change their policy?

Update
I received the following statement from Brandee Barker of Facebook in response to this post: “There are two different ways to remove your information from Facebook. The first is to deactivate an account. Once a user deactivates the account, his or her profile becomes inaccessible on the main Facebook service, and the data is kept by Facebook only to allow easy reactivation. The second option is to delete the profile altogether. When a user deletes his or her profile, personal information — such as name and all email addresses associated with the account — is deleted from Facebook servers. If a user decides to join Facebook again, he or she would need to create a new profile. We are working to better explain the simple deactivation process, and to ease the deletion process for those who want their personal information removed from our servers. Additional information can be found on the Facebook help page at http://www.facebook.com/help.php?page=5.”