No, I can't delete your Facebook account

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.