No, I can't delete your Facebook account

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Something strange has been happening. On more than one occasion I’ve received an irate email from a complete stranger demanding that I delete their Facebook account.

Of course, it’s not surprising that there are a few people that actually want to leave the uber social network – slippery privacy controls and the occasional security breach can have that effect – but to be mistaken for somebody who works at Facebook is a little odd. I’m not exactly known as the company’s number one fan.

Here’s one such email, entitled “Delete My Facebook Acct”:

Someone is posting pictures on my account and I do not want them there. Also received a message from someone I knew adding me to their friends list and I didn’t request that they add me to their list. I do not like my privacy invaded and want to just get rid of it.

Now it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on here with this particular user (perhaps they’ve been the victim of a phishing attack) but it got me thinking: How hard can it be to leave the site. I mean, it used to be quite tricky but, surely, like much of Facebook’s usability, things have improved since the last time I checked.

Well, they have and they haven’t.

If you want to ‘Deactivate’ your account, it’s pretty straight forward. Go to the account menu, select account settings, and click on Deactivate Account. This basically suspends a Facebook account but doesn’t remove any of the user’s data from the company’s servers just in case they want to return. How helpful.

However, deleting a Facebook account forever requires a bit more digging. That’s if you try and locate the instructions on Facebook itself without resorting to search. (Here, Google really is your friend).

Admittedly, I did find the required information after 3-4 minutes of clicking around the site (although others I know have had a harder time). The option to permanently delete your account isn’t linked to or explained in the ‘Deactivate Account’ tool, for example. In fact, the most fail safe method within the site itself is the search facility found in the Help Centre, which has conspicuously been down for the last two days.

Perhaps tellingly, Facebook’s own algorithm of ‘common searches’ is highlighting the term ‘delete account’ as the most frequently searched for in the help section. More popular than searches for Farmville, even. So it’s clear that many users of Facebook are still having to fall back on search to find out how to delete their account for good.

And failing that, some users are emailing me. In case you’re thinking of doing the same. No, I can’t delete your Facebook account.

  • Marty

    Time to print your “No, I will not delete your FB account” T-shirt ;-)

    • Steve O'Hear

      I think a “Yes, I’ll honor the f***ing embargo” T-shirt takes priority.

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  • Stefan

    I know its besides the point … but I think the user is referring to the standard Facebook tools and was not subject to any attack. “Someone is posting pictures on my account and I do not want them there” = tagging? “received a message from someone I knew adding me to their friends list and I didn’t request that they add me to their list” = someone adding him/her never requires a request from the user being added.

    • Steve O'Hear

      I think you are probably right, which sort of sums up Facebook for a lot of people: confusing.

  • John

    Facebook | Delete my account :

    After doing this don’t press Like buttons for a month.

  • Marfi

    And even when you delete it, they attack you with psychology tricks:

    • wol
      …’will no longer be able to keep in touch with you’ – well yes they will because if they’re ‘real’ friends, they’ll either knock at my door or call me on the phone.

  • Geoffrey McCaleb

    Thanks for clearing this up Steve – what fools to think you are somehow connected to FB.

    Now, can you help me stop getting SPAM? I get them all the time and I’m sure you have something to do with it right? :)

    • FB Lemming

      I found out through Facebook that my wife is cheating on me. Please help Steve ;-)

      • Stefan

        Dude that sux! Good luck m8.

      • Steve O'Hear

        Un-friend her, simple.

      • FB Lemming

        Great, now just need to get her outta my space ;-)

  • Daniel

    If you’re worried about privacy the best approach is probably first to attempt to “pollute” the data held on you.
    If you’re a teen, become a 65 year old widow that likes soap operas and knitting. Let’s face it you’re unlikely to be able to erase everything on you in the big database in the cloud. However they are usually happy to update your details to continue tracking you better.
    This means you can easily mess up who they think you are with a simple tool called lying.

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