Facebook Makes you a Living Dead

05/06/09

Permalink 07:42:01 pm, by Igor Drokov, in User experience, Online identity  

A lot is written on privacy implications of sharing your personal information with different web services. Concerns have been raised about the ownership of information users upload in "the cloud" and it's persistence.

One recent experiment demonstrated that once you have used an online service to share your photos it might be problematic to remove them even when you choose:

My colleagues Jonathan Anderson, Andrew Lewis, Frank Stajano and I ran a small experiment on 16 social-networking, blogging, and photo-sharing web sites and found that most failed to remove image files from their photo servers after they were deleted from the main web site. It’s often feared that once data is uploaded into “the cloud,” it’s impossible to tell how many backup copies may exist and where, and this provides clear proof that content delivery networks are a major problem for data remanence.

Well, maybe deleting a single photo is too small of an operation to expect the site to really make sure it's gone forever. Surely, one would hope that once you de-register your whole account, it will be gone for good?

I have recently tried to close my Facebook account. According to Facebook's privacy policy:

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 but will not be generally available to members of Facebook.

OK, I understand purging backup copies is probably asking too much for a user. However, I was surprised to receive the following email after deactivating my account:

You have deactivated your Facebook account. You can reactivate your account at any time by logging into Facebook using your old login email and password. You will be able to use the site like you used to.

Thanks,
The Facebook Team

Indeed, trying to click on the "resurrect" link I found myself back to my profile with all connections and personal information intact.

OK, maybe having a "grace" period for users deactivating their accounts on the spur of the moment is a good feature. So I deactivated my account again and this time left it for almost a month. Yet, today I was able to successfully login to my surely-by-now-non-existent account and found all my connections and information intact as it was...

Welcome to the Hotel California 2.0:

"You can checkout any time you like, But you can never leave!"