Facing pressure from a UK probe and continued coverage from the New York Times, Facebook seems to have realized that people don’t appreciate the website keeping their data after discontinuing their accounts.
To review, it has long been difficult for people to really get off Facebook. Last summer, Steve Mansour attracted attention after (colorfully) documenting the 2504 Steps to Closing Your Facebook Account, or the actual process he had to go through to get his personal information removed from Facebook after he’d already deactivated his account. (Long story short: he was forced to delete every entry he made in a form, every friend he’d added, every note he’d written, etc., etc., individually.)
Eventually, this issue was brought to the attention of Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office, who didn’t look too kindly on it, either. Once the New York Times spoke up about it on Tuesday, however, Facebook suddenly decided it was time to act. In an email to the New York Times (published in a story today), Facebook Director for user experience and design Katie Geminder said that about half of all those who deactivate their accounts actually return. I wouldn’t say she’s lying, but I don’t exactly believe her, either.
Regardless of my opinion, Facebook has recently updated their help information on deleting accounts:
If you deactivate your account, 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, we do save your profile information (friends, photos, interests, etc.), so if you want to reactivate at some point, 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.
If you do not think you will use Facebook again and would like your account deleted, we can take care of this for you. Keep in mind that you will not be able to reactivate your account or retrieve any of the content or information you have added. If you would like your account deleted, please contact us using the form at the bottom of the page and confirm your request in the text box.
According to records at archive.org, there was no easy access to finding information on deleting a Facebook account on their old help page. Though they certainly may have made that information more available in the last year, it seems that many people were forced to manually remove every bit of information from their profiles. Though the present solution is still a bit cumbersome, it’s certainly an improvement over the previous policy.