Facebook: Calacanis Is Lying

Well, this is getting more interesting. This morning, we reported that Jason Calacanis’ Facebook account was still active, despite his very public deletion of the account about 20 days ago. When he found out about this, Calacanis sent an angry email to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg (and copied us on it). According to him, third party sites were keeping this account active — a move which seems pretty sketchy. We reached out to Facebook to get a statement, and they’ve finally responded. According to them, basically, Calacanis is lying.

Facebook engineer Mike Vernal left a comment on our original post this morning. Facebook VP of Communications Elliot Schrage then emailed us, pointing us to the comment. I’ll copy of those messages below, but first let’s recap what Calacanis said.

In his email (to Zuckerberg and Sandberg) Calacanis wrote, “Seems my personal Facebook got turned back on by a 3rd party service that logged into it.” After we printed that (with his permission), he later clarified, “the third party sites didn’t turn it back on… i needed to login to a 3rd party site that i used FB connect on (i think last week)… might have been an iphone app, i can’t remember. so then my account goes back on and all the connected services start flooding it.

Obviously, the second statement contradicts the first, but this is sort of confusing stuff for any user. Maybe Calacanis just stated it poorly the first time. But both explanations are impossible according to Facebook. According to them, the only way Calacanis’ profile was still active was if he logged into his account and explicitly asked for it not to be deleted.

Here’s what Vernal wrote in the comment (I’ve highlighted the key parts):

Greetings, all. I’m an engineer at Facebook who wanted to offer up a little bit of context on this post.

With account deletion, we wait 14 days between receiving the request and deleting the account. This is based on extensive feedback from people who contact us shortly after deleting their account asking for a way to recover their accounts. Since deletion is irreversible, this allows people to log back in and proactively cancel their deletion request within the 14 day window. This timeframe also gives us time to ensure people are able to be notified of their deletion request in the event that the request was made maliciously by someone who has access to the person’s login credentials.

In this situation, we’ve investigated and concluded that all of our policies were followed. We don’t get into specifics about individual users but in theory, the only way someone would be able to log back in to Facebook or another website with their Facebook information is if they had cancelled their deletion request before the 14 day window expired.

In other words, Facebook is saying that the only way a user would be able to log in to another site with Facebook information is if they actually cancelled their deletion request. This directly contradicts what Calacanis said to us in his clarification.

Meanwhile, Schrage wrote to us (I’ve highlighted the key parts):

I think it merits an update to your post.  Just to repeat — the only way someone would be able to log back in to Facebook or another website with their Facebook information is if they had cancelled their deletion request before the 14 day window expired.   This would NOT happen if some third party site automatically pings your profile.

This last sentence directly contradicts Calacanis’ original statement. So either way, Facebook is effectively saying that Calacanis is lying. They’re saying that there’s no way a third-party site could have kept his account active. And there’s no way he could have kept it active by logging into a third-party site (through Connect) without him explicitly canceling his deletion request first.

Just to make sure, we understood exactly what they were saying, we wrote back to Schrage, “wow. you sure about this? once this is out it can’t go back in.” He has yet to respond — and he’s usually very good about that. So we’ll take that as a “yes.”

The key part of this is: “In this situation, we’ve investigated” — so Facebook specifically looked into what happened with Calacanis’ account before making that statement. They humorously (and for legal purposes, no doubt) say “in theory” — but they’re actually saying that they looked into it, and Calacanis (or someone with access to his account) cancelled the deletion process.

We’ve notified Calacanis of Facebook’s statement and will obviously update when if hear back.