Facebook improves account deletion

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office may be feeling a little more satisfied today. Last month it entered into discussions with Facebook about how users can maintain their privacy and control their data, in particular, deleting their data and acounts from the site. The talks were prompted last November when Channel 4 News detailed how Facebook was being investigated by the ICO after a complaint that a user could not remove his account or any of the data – photos, wall posts etc – associated with it. But today Facebook has told the New York Times that it is now possible to delete an account from the site entirely.

However, although the account is supposed to be deleted and wall posts of deleted members also disappear, some traces remain. Facebook’s privacy officer says “Facebook’s servers no longer contain the information needed to connect that user ID (e.g., name, e-mail address, networks, etc.) to the person associated with that account.” So it sounds like you might see the odd post on a wall from a deleted user but then you can get to their account.

Whether this will be enough to satisfy the ICO remains to be seen. But I would hazard a guess that it is not any government-style investigation that is exercising Facebook’s owners, but a revolt or possible mass exodus from the users themselves if Facebook can’t get the whole privacy issue right.