Facebook bends to users, makes it easier to delete accounts

Facebook posted the form for permanent account deactivation after it came under pressure from a Facebook group with more than 8,000 members.

After a flood of highly publicized user complaints, Facebook this week moved to make it easier for users to permanently delete their accounts and all the content associated with them by posting instructions on its user help page.

Today, a user's profile and all information associated with it are made inaccessible to other users when an account is deactivated. However, Facebook has acknowledged on the user help page that it does save content from the profile -- such as user-generated data and photos -- on its servers in case users want to reactivate accounts.

Facebook posted the form for permanent account deactivation after it came under pressure from a Facebook group with more than 8,000 members that formed to support the need for an easy way to permanently delete profile information from the social network. The issue was also publicized in articles this week in The New York Times about users struggling to have Facebook profiles deleted.

While some users in the group welcomed Facebook's move to add the form to delete accounts, the group's administrator asked why the social network opted to "hide" the form at the bottom of the help page.

"Do I first have to go hunting for HOW to leave, and then explain WHY?" the administrator added.

Josh Catone, a blogger at Read Write Web noted that being able to permanently remove information from social networks like Facebook is not a trivial requirement for many users.

"Facebook and other social sites are fast becoming your online 'permanent record,'" he added. "People often feel comfortable disclosing sensitive information on these networks, possibly because they're communicating with friends. Being able to remove that personal information permanently is an option that I'd wager many people want, even if most aren't clamoring to exercise it (until the need to delete outweighs the utility of having an account, most people aren't going to want to delete their account)."

Anthony LaFauce, a blogger at AllFacebook, said that while Facebook should have had clear instructions on how to delete an account, the social network has responded quickly to user requests.

"Facebook is playing damage control," he wrote. "Facebook is trying to stop the flood of complaints before it becomes a true ocean of complaints. Facebook shouldn't assume that users are going to jump through hoops to try and delete profiles. Users shouldn't assume that Facebook is going to spoon-feed them solutions to every problem."

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Heather Havenstein

Computerworld
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