FAQ: How to Delete Your Facebook Account

Follow this Step-by-Step FAQ to Clean Your Private Data From the Social Networking Site

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
4 min read
Are you confused by the myriad changes Facebook keeps making to its privacy settings? Are you angry about your data being exposed without your express consent? Are you just fed up and not going to take it anymore?

You're not alone. A recent poll from Sophos found that an estimated 60 percent of users are considering quitting Facebook over privacy issues. More than 11,000 people have committed to ditching the social-networking site on May 31, according to QuitFacebookDay.com. And more people are searching Google for ways to delete their Facebook accounts than ever, according to the Search Engine Land blog.

But leaving Facebook can be almost as confusing as navigating the privacy backwaters on the site. This New York Times graphic shows that there are 50 settings and more than 170 options to managing the privacy of a Facebook account. Here are some tips on deleting your account and answers to questions about what that means for your data, and more.

What's the difference between deleting and deactivating a Facebook account?
Deactivation means the profile information and content are hidden from view of others but are saved on Facebook servers in case you want to reactivate the profile. Messages you've sent and Wall posts remain, but your name appears in black text that is not clickable since your profile is now hidden.

Deleting an account removes it from the site permanently and you have to start from scratch if you decide later that you want to be on Facebook again. There is a 14-day delay before the data is completely deleted to give users time to change their mind. If you change your mind you can merely log into the account and the deletion request will be canceled.

How do I deactivate my account?
Click the Account tab in the upper right-hand corner of your main page. The Settings tab should be highlighted and there is a Deactivate link at the very bottom of the list. When you click it, you will be asked if you are sure you want to deactivate your account and why you are doing so. You will also be shown photos of you with friends with accompanying messages that say "(Your friend here) will miss you." There is also a box to check at the bottom to opt out of receiving e-mails from Facebook if friends tag you in photos or invite you to join the site.

How do I delete my Facebook account?
It's not as easy to find out how to delete your account. I clicked on the Account tab and then Help Center and typed in "delete account" in the search window. Under the question prompt "How do I permanently delete my account" there is a link to this page where you can click the Submit button or the Cancel button.

What happens to my data after I delete my account?
According to this Facebook Help Center page all personally identifiable information associated with your account will be purged from Facebook's database if you choose to permanently delete the account. "This includes information like your name, e-mail address, mailing address, and IM screen name," the site says. "Copies of some material (photos, notes, etc.) may remain in our servers for technical reasons, but this material is disassociated from any personal identifiers and completely inaccessible to other users. Facebook also does not use content associated with accounts that have been deactivated or deleted."

I asked a Facebook spokesman why copies would need to be kept at all and for how long, exactly when all traces of the data are gone entirely, and whether any data remain on any servers of partners, and if so for how long? Here is his reply: "When a photo or video is deleted, or when a person deletes his or her account, we quickly delete all of the metadata for the photo as well as any and all tagging and linking information. For all practical purposes, the photo no longer exists, and we wouldn't be able find it if we were asked or even compelled to do so. This is similar to what happens when you delete information from the hard drive of your computer. Technically, the bits that make up the photo persist somewhere, but, again, the photo is impossible to find. It's possible that someone who previously had access to a photo and saved the direct URL from our content delivery network partner (this is different from the Facebook URL) could still access the photo. However, again, the person would have to know the URL, and the photo only exists in the CDN's (content delivery network's) cache for a limited amount of time."

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