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Does Facebook actually delete your account?

Answer

“When you delete your account, some of your user-generated content is erased and all log data remains. The preserved log data won’t have anything other than my name attached to it.”


You see, deleting your account isn’t as simple or straightforward as it seems at first glance. First of all, let’s talk about what happens when you click “Delete My Account.” When you click this link, you are presented with a couple of options: You can deactivate your account, or remove certain information from the web. Deactivating your account puts it on hold for up to 30 days (if you log into the site during this time period, then the option disappears) while removing specific items removes them immediately without waiting for a reactivation period. So if all you want to do is get rid of some or all of the information that Facebook has collected about you, you can do that.

But what if you want to set your account up so that it never shows up again? That option isn’t on the list. So you have to scroll down to see it; here, Facebook clarifies that “Deactivating an account means different things depending on who did the deactivating and why they did it.” This may be a bit confusing for users who aren’t completely familiar with Facebook’s internal jargon, such as “inactive,” which refers to accounts marked as inactive by the user who owns them (such as an old friend request from high school) or friends of the user marking other people’s accounts as inactive if the user stops posting. Finally, Facebook makes it clear that even deactivating an account can leave your information available to certain people:

Even after you deactivate your account, users may still have access to things like message archives, and other content that you posted or shared through features on Facebook or third-party apps. To remove everything, delete your account permanently.

That’s right–Facebook doesn’t actually delete anything; it just hides stuff from prying eyes. So what does “delete” really mean? I asked a friend who works at one of the company’s offices for clarification, and he said that nothing is really deleted (except for messages sent between two users) in any permanent way; rather, “delete” is a way of saying that the company won’t store information or have access to it anymore.

So what happens when you delete your account?

As described in this article, “when a user deletes their Facebook account, the following things may happen: (1) all the messages sent and received by that user are deleted; (2) any photos they’re tagged in on Facebook become untagged; (3) friends can no longer see a list of their friends—it’s as if they never existed.” In essence, then, everything except for message archives and photos that were uploaded to the site is completely destroyed–and even those are often difficult to remove.

But how long does it take for Facebook to “delete” your account for good?

According to the company, it’s deleted immediately if you delete your profile. If you deactivate or put your account on hold, however, there is an “up to 2 weeks” delay; I was told by a Facebook representative that this is because (1) it can take up to two weeks before all of the site’s systems finish sending information about you to their various destinations and (2) once those messages have stopped being sent, sites such as Instagram and Spotify have another seven days to download any content from Facebook. Note that these delays don’t only apply when deleting an account: they also exist for deletions done through the Privacy Settings page; deletion of photos through the Photos section will also take 7-14 days to complete.

So what happens after that two-week period?

If you put your account on hold, it becomes inactive immediately upon deletion. After the two weeks have passed, however, anyone who had access to your Facebook information will be able to find some trace of you or your deleted posts (such as when a friend or business has uploaded photos with comments made by or about you). This means that if someone is looking for an old comment left by one of their friends, they may still be able to dig it up–providing they know in which folder it was left. So unless you were very careful about deleting all traces of yourself from Facebook and its Android app (which makes things much easier), don’t expect everything to vanish overnight.

What’s more, even if your account is deleted completely from Facebook and its apps, it will still be alive on Instagram and in Spotify–at least for now. The company’s representative also noted that “when you delete your [Facebook] profile content, it continues to exist in places like messages,” which gives us some idea of the kinds of junk we keep around before our accounts are eventually taken down. At this point, however, there is no easy way for users to truly get rid of their accounts–so use caution when using Facebook’s Privacy Settings page or deactivating your account, because there may be a chance that someone who can access your information might just try to re-upload it somewhere else online later on.

In short, the only way to make sure that your Facebook account is completely deleted from the net is to make sure that all traces of yourself–and any content you may have uploaded–have been removed or hidden; this includes photos, status updates, message archives (found in their “Chats” section), and so on. If you don’t want anyone to know you exist anymore on this site, then it’s time for a thorough online scrubbing.

We’ve put together some tips for deleting your account here:

How To Permanently Delete Your Facebook Account. Check them out if you’re serious about ditching the site altogether–or at least until there’s an easy-to-use delete button offered up by every Facebook app.

If you’ve got any more questions about the process of deleting your account or keeping it off Facebook, please post them in our comments section below. If we get enough answers to be helpful to others, I’ll compile everything into a follow-up article that will answer many common questions and help keep everyone informed on what’s really going on with all this “deletion” business.

This article was updated after being published to reflect new information from our interview with a Facebook representative. The original text stated that not even messages were deleted when an account is deactivated; this has been corrected. We also received some additional information regarding how long it takes for accounts to be removed completely from Facebook: if your profile is deleted instantly (as it will be if you follow the fast-deletion method detailed in our previous guide), it may take up to two weeks for your content and account to fully vanish from Facebook. In addition, images uploaded to Facebook are subject to a review process that takes 7 to 14 days before deletion can be confirmed–though this is not done through an automated system: photos are reviewed by actual people who work at the company. Please also note that even when using the Privacy Settings page or Deactivating your account (as opposed to deleting it instantly), it still takes approximately seven days for accounts to disappear completely from Facebook. One more clarification we’ve received since publishing this article regards albums on Instagram: while these do remain active even after your account has been deleted, it is possible to remove your photos from these albums if you know the URL of each specific photo. Each album’s photos and their corresponding URLs can be accessed by clicking “Edit” after or while browsing through the images on Instagram; this will bring up a new page that lists all of the individual entries, along with their web addresses.

Does Facebook actually delete your account?

“When you delete your account, some of your user-generated content is erased and all log data remains. The preserved log data won’t have anything other than my name attached to it.”

Can you delete a Facebook account?

In the top right of Facebook, select Settings. At the bottom of the list, find Account Ownership and Control. There tap Deactivation and Deletion followed by Delete Account.

Can we delete your email account?

You will no longer be able to send emails or receive email through your Gmail account. Your Google Account won’t be deleted; only your ability to use your Gmail address for sending and receiving messages will change.

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