Facebook is notorious for retaining user information, even after users has opted to remove it from Facebook. One such example is photos.
Although officially Facebook claimed it allowed users to permanently delete photos from Facebook, unofficial reports from Facebook users said otherwise. Indeed while ‘deleted’ photos would no longer be on Facebook itself, they would still be accessible via direct links years after they were supposedly deleted. At the time, of course, Facebook denied the allegations. However, in February of this year Facebook admitted to ArsTechnica that the “systems” Facebook used for photo storage “did not always delete images”:
The systems we used for photo storage a few years ago did not always delete images from content delivery networks in a reasonable period of time even though they were immediately removed from the site. We have been working hard to move our photo storage to newer systems which do ensure photos are fully deleted.
Since February Facebook has implemented new “policies and infrastructure” that allows for the deletion of photos within 30 days, from Facebook and its Content Delivery Networks (which is where the photos used to be still retained):
As a result of work on our policies and infrastructure, we have instituted a ‘max-age’ of 30 days for our CDN links. However, in some cases the content will expire on the CDN much more quickly, based on a number of factors.
Not being a Facebook user, I can’t personally test Facebook’s new claim. However, ArsTechnica, which has been investigating this issue since 2009, does confirm that now photos really are deleted from Facebook and its CDNs after a user deletes them from Facebook. It is just too bad it took Facebook years to implement a feature that should be a given on any social network. And what about also allowing us to permanently delete our accounts, Facebook?