As I write this, a gaping security flaw has been found in Facebook that allows users to spy upon their Friends’ chats. The flaw looks like it’s in the process of being fixed, but this is just the latest in a long line of problems with the social networking service’s privacy.
The security hole in the chat tool was undoubtedly accidental, but Facebook’s repeated slackening of its privacy controls is deliberate and each change puts the personal data of its users at increased of unwanted exposure to third parties.
This erosion of privacy for Facebook profiles is leading many users to close their accounts, but here’s a question — how do you do it?
Look under Account > Account Settings and the most you can do is deactivate your Facebook account — this simply renders your profile inaccessible but doesn’t delete any data. That means Facebook still hangs into your stuff, ostensibly so that you can get it back when you reactivate your account when you realise the error of your ways.
Deleting your account and all the data it contains, on the other hand, isn’t so easy. In fact, I can’t find any way to do it though the settings accessible from a Profile page. But it can be done by going to the Help Centre and searching for “I want to permanently delete my account”.
I’ve saved you the trouble — here’s the results page you get, with “I want to permanently delete my account. How do I delete my account?” at the top of the list and this page shows the pertinent information. It says:
If you deactivate your account from the “Deactivate Account” section on the Account page, your profile and all information associated with it are immediately made inaccessible to other Facebook users. What this means is that you effectively disappear from the Facebook service. However, if you want to reactivate at some point, we do save your profile information (friends, photos, interests, etc.), and your account will look just the way it did when you deactivated if you decide to reactivate it. Many users deactivate their accounts for temporary reasons and expect their information to be there when they return to the service.
If you do not think you will use Facebook again and would like your account deleted, please keep in mind that you will not be able to reactivate your account or retrieve any of the content or information you have added.
Clicking the link on that page takes you to a request page for deleting your Facebook account — I don’t know if it happens immediately, or if Facebook pleads with you for a bit before obeying your request. I also don’t know if Facebook does actually delete your data, or just pretends to and actually squirrels it away for later secret experimentation without your consent. This is all Facebook has to say on the matter:
Once you have submitted a request to permanently delete your account, no further action is required on your end. Our system delays the deletion process in case you change your mind and no longer want to permanently delete your account. Note that logging in to your account again will undo a pending deletion request.