I don’t know which analogy to lead with: Hotel California (“You can check out, but you can never leave”) or Fatal Attraction (“I won’t be ignored”).
What’s this all about? Apparently, Facebook makes it near impossible to remove your account from their system. Sure, you can deactivate it, but you cannot leave. Ok, you can if you find and run some hidden obstacle course, but it ain’t easy. When asked about this new privacy concern, Facebook basically said “tough shit, we have no plans to offer a one-step delete account option.” I doubt of they’ll be offering data portability either. Talk about “owned.” Screw that.
Read the New York Times article below. Read the Facebook Rant here.
February 13, 2008
New York Times
Quitting Facebook Gets Easier
By MARIA ASPAN
Aiming to address the privacy concerns of disenchanted users, Facebook.com said on Tuesday that it was trying to make it easier for people to delete their accounts permanently from the social networking site.
Until now, Facebook has offered only a deactivation option, which keeps copies of the account’s personal information on the company’s servers. It is possible to delete an account fully using a cumbersome manual method, but it is difficult; many users complained that Facebook did not provide clear instructions.
On Monday, Facebook modified its help pages to tell people that if they wanted to remove their accounts entirely, they can direct the company by e-mail to have it done. But on Tuesday, representatives of Facebook stopped short of saying the company would introduce a one-step delete account option.
“We’re always working to improve the user experience,” Katie Geminder, director for user experience and design at Facebook, said in a statement sent by e-mail.
“We are measuring the effects of the change we made yesterday, and if we think more needs to be done to improve the user experience for deleting an account, we’ll test different implementations and measure them accordingly,” she added.
The updated Facebook help page now includes the question “How do I delete my account?” The answer: “If you do not think you will use Facebook again and would like your account deleted, we can take care of this for you. Keep in mind that you will not be able to reactivate your account or retrieve any of the content or information you have added.”
The entry then says, “If you would like your account deleted, please contact us using the form at the bottom of the page and confirm your request in the text box.”
Ms. Geminder said that Facebook’s policies were a reflection of the fact that many people came back to Facebook after they stopped using the site for a time. “On any given day, the number of users reactivating their accounts is roughly half of the number of users deactivating their accounts,” she said.
As The New York Times reported on Monday, some Facebook users who wished to close their accounts had been unable to do so, even after contacting Facebook’s customer service representatives. Many departing users, who could spend weeks or months trying to erase their accounts without success, turned to unofficial guides like the Facebook users group “How to permanently delete your Facebook account.”
Since Monday, almost 3,000 people have joined the group, which counted more than 7,000 members on Tuesday evening and had been growing by the hour. “I honestly did NOT know they kept your data after you deactivated your account,” one new member wrote on the group’s board. “I’m not leaving until I finish university,” she added, “but I’ll be glad of the info when I do.”
Another new member wrote, “Though I plan to stick around Facebook for a while, I joined this group so I know how to delete my account/profile when I do desire to leave. Thank you!”
Magnus Wallin, the Swedish patent examiner who founded the group, said his reaction to the company’s policy change was mixed. “Information on how to do it is great,” he said in an e-mail message. “But it should be really easily available. Not at the bottom of the help pages. And a ‘form’ sounds like you have to explain yourself. A regular delete button would be preferable, in my opinion.”
Facebook blamed a technical snag for the predicament of Nipon Das, a business consultant in Manhattan who spent two months trying to delete his account but nevertheless continued to receive messages and notes from friends through Facebook.
“Mr. Das appears to have an active account on Facebook, which is why you are able to view his mostly empty profile and why he still may be receiving messages or friend requests,” Ms. Geminder said. “If Mr. Das wishes to deactivate or delete his account from Facebook, his profile will not be viewable by anyone.”
Mr. Das — who described his plight by quoting lyrics from the Eagles song “Hotel California” that say, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave” — has found himself cast as an unlikely mascot for disgruntled Facebook users. Several of them have found his empty profile and sent him messages, “ranging from Eagles song quotes to those of support,” he said.
“I have turned into the test case,” he said.