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Facebook bows to protest and allows account deletion

Social networking website Facebook claims to have fixed the privacy problems that have dogged it in recent weeks.21 Feb 2008

Users reported that it was impossible to delete all their information from the site, but Facebook says that total deletion is now possible.

There was an outcry when users discovered that they could leave Facebook, but that their details would remain on Facebook servers. The company said that this is in case users changed their minds and wanted to reactivate accounts.

Facebook groups even emerged to publicise the problem and ways users could work around it.
Facebook, though, now says that it has introduced a method by which a user can permanently delete all of their information.

"If you deactivate your account, your profile and all information associated with it are immediately made inaccessible to other Facebook users," says Facebook's privacy guidelines. "However, we do save your profile information (friends, photos, interests, etc.), so if you want to reactivate at some point, your account will look just the way it did when you deactivated."

"If you do not think you will use Facebook again and would like your account deleted, we can take care of this for you," it said.

Until last week total deletion was not possible. There have even been some hiccups with the new system, but Facebook told the New York Times that they were fixed at the weekend.

The UK's Information Commissioner has previously said that he would investigate one British user's case after the user complained about being unable to delete his account.

"Many people are posting content on social networking sites without thinking about the electronic footprint they leave behind," the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) told The Register last November.

"[Companies] should ensure that personal information is not retained for longer than necessary especially when the information relates to a person who no longer uses the site. Organisations can ensure personal information is effectively protected by complying with the principles of the Data Protection Act," said the statement.

The company also faced user revolt over an advertising system introduced late last year which told your online 'friends' about purchases you made on advertising partner websites. Called Beacon, the system was withdrawn by Facebook in December after a storm of protest.