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Michael Gracie

The joke starts off “To delete your Facebook account…”

This morning’s MySpace note reminded me that I had some housekeeping to do. One of the duties was to delete a few social networking accounts – I don’t use them and likely never will, preferring the dynamics of voice intonation and facial expressions over web pages. This task, however, proved more complicated than I thought.

I’ll toss out a caveat – MySpace was a cakewalk. I logged in, and clicked on account settings. The “delete” link was easy to find, and I clicked it. The page asked me in no uncertain terms whether I wanted to do this. I pushed the equivalent of the yes button. Thirty seconds later I received an email with another link to complete cancellation. I click that, push one button, and it’s done (or at least promised within 48 hours). Seconds later I notice that the MySpace messaging account I had input into Adium (but never actually used) had gone offline. I was now pretty certain my account had been taken care of.

On to Facebook…I am now reminded why I avoid signing up for too many services on the web – some are simply run by jackasses.

First and foremost, trying to find a link to delete your account within Facebook is kind of like trying to find a prostitute inside the Vatican City – you’ve heard rumors it’s possible, but nobody is pointing the way. I wound up having to run a Google search to acquire this:

http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account

So I click said link, and wind up at a page that tells me I need to log in. I enter my log-in information, but instead of getting redirected to the page I previously requested – you know, in the same sort of manner virtually every other web service on planet Earth operates when you click on a link that requires prior login – I wind up at a generic contact page. Furthermore, the “Issues” drop down list of the form now staring me down doesn’t even contain a selection for “delete account.”

I have to say I’d actually thought of writing a desktop script to repeatedly request account deletion, but soon realized someone else had probably tried that. How do I know? Well after finally reaching the proper page and requesting account deletion, I was met with this message:

Thanks, your inquiry has been forwarded to the Facebook Team.

At that point I realized I was running late. So I walked the dog around a few blocks – when I returned, this was sitting in my inbox:

Hi,

The Facebook Team has received your inquiry. We should get back to you soon. In the meantime, we encourage you to review our Privacy and Security Help page (http://www.facebook.com/help.php?page=433). There, you’ll find answers to many common questions.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

The Facebook Team

It didn’t take a deep investigation to realize this was an auto-generated message. In addition, the return address had been purposefully obfuscated to either prevent a reply or keep damn good track of who did reply:

privacy+nl8qtsg@facebook.com

I then run through the same process roughly ten times – hitting the delete account page and proceeding – hoping the “Facebook Team” truly gets the message. Then I run out for breakfast. When I returned, there were no new delete account messages waiting for me – someone has obviously tried the delete-account-many-times approach, and Facebook has taken appropriate measures. Several hours later my account was still active.

Conclusions:

1) Facebook goes to great length to prevent you from finding a way to delete your account. Links are extremely non-obvious, and the site purposefully tries to circumvent your reaching the page. You are forced to find a link to delete from outside the site, and make sure your are logged in BEFORE you can properly access said link.

2) Facebook communication makes them sound apprehensive about deleting your information. They may claim that this is for your own protection, but I consider the sequence and tone more that of one that wants to carefully review your information first, just in case there is something of value to them within.

Keep in mind – you don’t have this problem elsewhere. I’ve been plenty of places where going through the delete account process gives you fair warning, just before your account disappears. I’ve got MySpace on the tip of my tongue…cripes, even Google lets you delete accounts and the result is instantaneous. Finding yourself in the position of having to wait for some “team” to “get back to you soon” is more than mere bullshit.

You know what they say…if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

Then don’t forget your waterfowl stamp.

UPDATE: Roughly 36 hours later, I get this:

Hi Michael,

We have deleted your profile information and removed your email address from our login database.

We are always trying to improve the Facebook user experience. As someone who recently deleted their account, we’re looking for feedback about this specific experience. If you have time to answer the following questions, that would be much appreciated.

-Why did you decide to delete your account?

-Was it easy for you to find the option to delete and did you find the the process fairly straightforward? (if not, why not?)

-Why didn’t you want to deactivate your account?

-Any additional comments about the process.

Thank you for your time,

Emma
User Operations
Facebook

Kind enough, and certainly decent direct customer service contact. But ludicrous if you consider that…

1) This is the web we are talking about – action is supposed to be real-time, not a day and a half later;
2) This is the web we are talking about – machines are supposed to do this instead of purported humans;
3) This is the web we are talking about – if it really took a human to delete an account, you’d might have thought they would do at least the slightest bit of checking before asking questions that have already been answered.

Comments

Riceandeggs says:

You’re a retard.
I delete my facebook account in a matter of minutes.
Grow some computer knowledge.

And don’t let things like internet websites bother you so much! Find a better use for your time.
Like, read a book instead of the review.
Listen to your favorite songs instead of searching for new hip artists.
Live your life, don’t stress over it.
:]

“I delete my facebook account in a matter of minutes.”

Unless they’ve recently changed their policies, uh….

No you don’t.

Steve says:

Riceandeggs, I was initially going to say that that was a mean comment but then realized it just doesn’t make any sense, and thus can’t be offending.

Anyway, yeah, FaceBook is a creepy website. I remember trying to delete my account a few years back and it wouldn’t let me. Instead, it would ‘deactivate’ my account — which meant, when I would eventually reactivate it, it would be updated with new tagged images and the like. Scary.

Steve,

Thanks for the logic, where none existed previously.

MG

Rice and Eggs, you are an idiot.
Steve, you are an idiot.

Michael, is cool. But it still took you long enough that you had to look on google? LOL

PEACE

Heh. Guess I forgot to read Facebook for Dummies.

Arnold46 says:

OH my gosh, great questions!

Larry says:

Canadian authorities finally forced Facebook to change their policy of account deactivation to account deletion.

Several users, including me, have had a similar problem with Yahoo! Answers. They absolutely do not delete an account. Can’t you experiment over there and write something about it? Only increased attention or government intervention will force them to change.

Thank you.

Marion says:

Hi there,

Thanks for your article.
I think the main problem with facebook account deletion is that it takes them SO much time to delete all your comments, tags, etc etc.. that they prefer not to go through the pain and cost to do it.
Check this interesting interview http://therumpus.net/2010/01/conversations-about-the-internet-5-anonymous-facebook-employee/

dawna61 says:

My son tried to delete his face book account and it did take a lot of work. So whoever got theirs deleted in a matter of minutes consider yourself very lucky. It is difficult and goes through too many processes. Why is it easier to create an account than to delete one? My son is very computer savvy and has 4.0 GPA, was editor of college newspaper, one of 20 out of 20,000 students to earn a Student of Distinction Award, recipient of several Journalism awards for the school, hardly a “retard” as I said it was difficult for him delete his account, he deleted it because he says it is stupid, and makes it look like people do not have a life and have to interact online. I created a dummy account and it took several steps to delete it. Maybe it has to do with how any games you played Such as Cafe World or Farmville or Yoville. Also how many friends you have. But for anyone to say a person is a “retard” is absolutely ridiculous and in my opinion makes them the “retards”. And that is my opinion. Yes, I have an account but only because I like the little games. i don’t always agree with my son but on this I do. Also if they start charging I will be gone in a flash or maybe not if I have to take hours to delete……

Helen Banfield says:

Instead of all the stupid comments. How about some one actually saying HOW TO ACTUALLY DELETE FACEBOOK

krystal says:

well im still tryin to figure out to permantly delete mine and not deactivate it, so i agree with him, facebook does not let u permantly delete ur account!!!!!

[…] innovativ ist die Routine, wenn man Facebook verlassen möchte. Das schrieb Michael Gracie bereits im Sommer 2008. Seitdem hat es sich nicht geändert. Wenn man sein Nutzerkonto bei Facebook […]

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