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Guess what happens to the data you “Delete” on Facebook?

21
Oct
2011

delete_xThere are always things that we don’t want to have on Facebook. Gossipy conversations, embarrassing photos, controversial status updates – most people have had their fair share of such things. The best way to deal with them is usually to just click the delete button. After which, we can go back to living normally and just pretending that the unpleasant situation never happened in the first place. Or at least, that’s what we think.

Max Schrems, leader of the group Europe v. Facebook, has just revealed what the CD-ROM he received from Facebook contained. Apparently, some messages which he had previously deleted still showed up on the CD. According to him, the CD contained names of people he had removed from his friend list and also those he had rejected. It also contained a list of all the people he had ‘poked’ and all of those who ‘poked’ him.

The CD also contained pictures which he had untagged himself from and a list of events to which he was invited, including those which he had rejected.

Most disturbingly, the CD contained a log of all the chats he had with everyone on his friend list – even those exchanges which he deleted for privacy reasons. Schrems said that the CD contained information which could be “highly damaging” to his reputation should they ever become public.

Schrems said that in holding on to the data, Facebook is “acting like the KGB or the CIA”.

Indeed, if one were to ask the question “How much does Facebook know about me?”, the answer would be “a whole lot more than you’d expect” – the data CD pretty much gives a preview of this, a particularly frightening one.

“Information is power, and information about people is power over people. It’s frightening that all this data is being held by facebook”, said Schrems.

True enough, it’s a bit disturbing to know that data which we thought to be completely erased still exists somewhere on Facebook’s servers. Schrems said that Facebook is probably not misusing the data at the moment, but that the real concern is what will happen in the event of a privacy breach, either from hackers or from a person actually working for Facebook.

This was just but one of the 22 complaints that Schrems and his group logged with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. According to a spokesperson for the Commisoner, Facebook could be facing a fine of ?100,000 if found guilty. However, what does that fine really mean for a multi-billion dollar company?

Moreover, do we really need to put up with this farce of a delete button? When will Facebook give us real control over our data? When will delete really mean delete? For now, “delete” should be changed to “archive.”

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