Getting Stopped at the Door

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-02-12 Print this article Print

Mansour told eWEEK he thinks something "fishy" is going on because while other social networks leverage the personal data and content that users add, Facebook seems to try harder to keep users from leaving.

"[Other sites] don't resort to 'stopping us at the door' when we want to leave, and that's where our problem with Facebook comes in," Mansour said. "They make it very clear that they are granted full, unalienable rights to everything you put on Facebook, and that once it's on their servers, they own the rights to it forever."

Mansour's blog post inspired Facebook user Magnus Walling to set up a Facebook group site, "How to permanently delete your facebook account," with instructions on what to do to get oneself removed. The site has more than 6,700 members.

With all of the hullabaloo, Facebook said it is changing its approach to deactivation and deletion.

"We are working to better explain the simple deactivation process, and to ease the deletion process for those who want their personal information removed from our servers," said a Facebook spokesperson, who would not provide more detail.

In the meantime, Facebook may shoulder the brunt of more privacy complaints. Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley said the people who are complaining are not willing to live in a world where they can be "databased with impunity. The more Facebook refuses to delete accounts, the more people will want them deleted."

Eventually, Mansour said, the story could have bigger implications. While Facebook may not be doing anything untoward with the user data, it's still on the Internet, where a hacker can grab the data and do with it as they wish.

"While this applies to every other social network, of course, it's again that Facebook has collected such specific personal data about each user [down to their coordinates] that makes this a much scarier proposition than, say, someone hacking into MySpace and stealing all of someone's photos and musical preferences," he said.


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