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Facebook Moves to Address Account Deletion

   
3:43 pm on Feb 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

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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.

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.

Facebook Moves to Address Account Deletion [nytimes.com]

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4:58 pm on Feb 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member vincevincevince is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Good stuff. I, amongst many others, have been moaning at them for some time about this. I just hope that it really does what it says on the tin - removes your account and all records of you, whether they are contained in events on other user's home pages, walls, facebook applications, or postings in groups.
7:43 pm on Feb 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I agree that its important to be able to permanently remove your data. But when you send other people messages or post on other people's walls, I do not think that you can be entitled to retract such actions after the fact. That's now effected the other user -- and should be part of their user experience / user property.
7:49 pm on Feb 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator jatar_k is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



continuing to propagate the myth that what you say on the internet isn't there for all time.

just like anywhere else, you can't 'unsay' something.

I would be interested in what a court thinks. Once you've posted within someone else's sphere, who has ownership? FB, the other person, the group, who knows but I don't think it's wholly yours anymore.

9:31 pm on Feb 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



This has particular impact on communities with a discussion format, where post removal can make threads useless.

I recall one tech forum I was using to try to solve a problem where a disgruntled member had emptied all of his posts. That gutted the useful content, but left the useless thread to clutter up search engine results.

10:03 pm on Feb 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator httpwebwitch is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I agree that "unsaying" things isn't reasonable. An action I do is done, just like anything else I say in public. Which is why it's confounding the sorts of things people write on Walls! And dude who put a picture of himself holding a giant reefer in his gallery, posing with his plants under the homegrow lights. Idiot?

I can moderate my own behaviour, but as we're learning in social media, it's not just your own behaviour that you need to watch. I live an honest life, but when someone - who wasn't even a "friend" - posted an old picture of me with a regrettable ex-girlfriend in a group gallery, was I annoyed!

That stupid picture is still up there, still tagged with my name, and there's nothing I can do about it.

My question is: if I leave facebook, will they remove that photo?

10:20 pm on Feb 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

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probably not

back on the topic, when my brother tried to delete his facebook account, but couldn't, I freaked out and understood the level of "unfriendliness" of that site

since, I changed all my data to bogus; hopefully that will do the trick: your account is still there, but with usless info attached to it

these facebook guys are true amateurs though

what a joke

1:16 am on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I do think it's quite fair and appropriate to let members change or remove profile information that may be revealing - that's hard to argue with.
1:31 am on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member vincevincevince is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



There is a key difference here between different types of data; in particular consider the large number of alerts automatically generated to 'friends' during the use of Facebook. These are personally identifiable facts recorded about the actions of the user, rather than a deliberate contribution of that user to a discussion.

Facebook is a controlled single system under one entity. That means that it is technically trivial for Facebook to provide a facility to remove all traces of all information relating to a user; and this triviality in itself makes it unreasonable not to provide it from a data protection viewpoint.

I am aware that US and UK views upon data protection are quite difference, both in the legal and perceived popular position.

As a final note, Facebook require you to divulge personal information in order to use the system. In particular, your real name and date of birth are not optional and the terms and conditions forbid you using false information there. Personal data at facebook is hence not protected by the normal opt outs which would allow users not to share it in the first place.

1:45 am on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

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...the terms and conditions forbid you using false information there.

So what are they going to do - delete your profile? ;-)

9:22 am on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

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-- ...the terms and conditions forbid you using false information there.
So what are they going to do - delete your profile? ;-) --

I don't think it's realistic for commercial sites to expect people to give out important personal information on every site they sign up for.

How are they going to check any of this information is true anyway?

If they can't check it, why should anyone tell the truth, especially when they know the information might be misused if it falls into the wrong hands?

In case anyone missed it, the UK government recently lost an unencrypted disc containing the bank account details of 25 million people, nearly half the population. Why should we trust commercial sites to keep our details secret if we can't even trust our own governments?

2:11 pm on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

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That stupid picture is still up there, still tagged with my name, and there's nothing I can do about it.

If someone publishes a picture (e.g. in a newspaper or mag) they have to get signed permission from all the people in the picture.

Does this apply with Facebook? Is it actually illegal to post pictures of other people without their consent? Common sense seems to me to say it probably is.

Perhaps there could be an clause in FB that your friends are allowed to post pics of you but no-one else is without permission. I'd be surprised if there isn't a high profile case of this kind soon, if there hasn't been already.

10:11 pm on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Is it actually illegal to post pictures of other people without their consent?

It depends where the picture is taken. If it's in a public place, it shouldn't be illegal. On any sort of private property you usually need permission.
12:32 am on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If you are tagged in a photo on Facebook, you can untag yourself. And if you untag yourself, you can't be retagged in that photo.
3:02 pm on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I think photo removal will still be a hot issue. If someone takes a photo of me at a private party waving a bottle of vodka and wearing a lampshade, merely untagging it might not be sufficient if I'm concerned about friends, family, and my employer seeing it. It would be harder to find if it wasn't tagged, but an ambitious co-worker might feel compelled to forward it to my boss.
3:43 pm on Feb 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator httpwebwitch is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



my real-life Scenario:

unflattering photo (Exhibit A) added to group, by a non-friend, in a group I belong to. "Friend" tags me in photo. I receive notification that I've been tagged. So do a hundred other people I know. At this point, unflattering photo is seen by a large circle of my acquaintances.

I untag myself. Tag is removed -- but photo is not removed from the brains of all those people who have seen it and it cannot be "unseen". I can remove the tag, but can't remove the photo.

Tag is gone. Then non-friend (probably the same one that posted the photo) tags the photo again! This time, it is tagged with my full name, but it's not linked to my profile. The photo is tagged as though I'm an object in the picture.

The photo is merely unflattering; it was taken in public. No copyright violation, and there's nothing illegal about the photo. It's just so paparrazzi.

Facebook says it outright:

You are about to report a violation of our Terms of Use. All reports are strictly confidential. This report will be logged and the developers will be contacted to take action as necessary.

We will NOT remove photos just because they're unflattering.
emphasis mine

There is nothing I can do about this. It's a real, untouched photo, taken many years ago when my associations weren't as discerning as they are today. I'm being publicized the same way a hollywood celebrity gets unflattering publicity by TMZ, and there's nothing I can, or facebook will, do about it. Me, a regular domestic middle-class dude, being the subject of full-colour front page gossip!

The social implications of this would make an excellent academic thesis.

9:22 am on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

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We will NOT remove photos just because they're unflattering.

But surely they should be obliged to remove a photo if the person/people in the photo explicitly don't give their permission for the photo to be published?

10:46 pm on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator httpwebwitch is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



well that's the problem. AFAIK (and IANAL) There isn't a legal obligation to do so. Otherwise, how would all those paparrazzi mags get photos of Oprah and Britney on their covers? I believe the law would see them as similar situations.
4:23 pm on Feb 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Otherwise, how would all those paparrazzi mags get photos of Oprah and Britney on their covers?

I must admit I've never understood how that was legal either. As I understand it stalking and spying on people is illegal but it's OK if you're going to publish the pictures and potentially make money from it. Crazy!

6:46 am on Feb 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Otherwise, how would all those paparrazzi mags get photos of Oprah and Britney on their covers?

Just because they do it and get away with it, doesn't make it legal. Sometimes it's in the grey area in between. But for some celebrities, any publicity is good publicity, and even if they look like hell they don't want to bite the hand that feeds them.

1:45 pm on Feb 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



In the US, courts have established that public figures have a lower expectation of privacy than the rest of the citizenry. So, politicians and movie stars are fair game for almost any kind of press coverage that isn't downright false.