Now, more than ever, I am being asked how to delete a Facebook account. It’s totally understandable given the massive amount of data that has been shared by and breached from the Facebook servers about our most personal information, including our political leanings, our buying behaviors, even the contents of our phone calls and text messages. Users are finally figuring out that their private information fuels Facebook’s profit model. Your data is Facebook’s inventory, to be traded and sold as they see fit. Deleting your Facebook account should be something that you spend a few minutes thinking about before you press the button. While you are doing a great deal to protect your privacy, there are consequences that you should think about.
I’ve written A LOT about Facebook in the past.
- What not to post
- What not to like
- What not to click on
- How to keep your kids safe
- How to keep your data protected
- How to delete your account
ETC! Search specific topics here.
And personally, I’m ashamed of myself for knowing exactly how social networks like Facebook take advantage of users and our data, and yet still have a Facebook profile. I’m not just sharing my information, Facebook is also sharing everyone of my “friends’” Information through me. I’m currently thinking that the only way to protest this gross misuse is data is to delete my profile (which still won’t purge my historical data, but will stop future leakage).
And yes, I’ve written several times about how Facebook is allowed to sell your privacy. Now, it turns out the practices I have warned about for years are taking over our headlines with a “little” news bit about how Cambridge Analytica has used data obtained from Facebook to affect the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
Here’s a brief timeline:
- In 2014, a Soviet-born researcher and professor, Aleksandr Kogan, developed a “personality quiz” for Facebook.
- When a user took the quiz, it also granted the app access to scrape his or her profile AND the profiles of any Facebook friends. (Incidentally I was writing about why you shouldn’t take those quizzes right about the time all of this data was being gathered! And, it was totally legal at that time!)
- About 270,000 people took the quiz. Between these users and all of their friend connections, the app harvested the data of about 50 million people.
- This data was then used by Cambridge Analytica to help them target key demographics while working with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
- Facebook learned of this in late 2015 and asked everyone in possession of the data to destroy it. (They did not, however, tell those affected that their data had been harvested.)
- The company said it did, and Facebook apparently left it at that.
What’s happening now?
- Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica from its platform, banning the company from buying ads or running its Facebook pages.
- The Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has demanded the emails of Cambridge Analytica employees who worked for the Trump team as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the election.
- The European Union wants data protection authorities to investigate both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The UK’s information commissioner is seeking a warrant to access Cambridge Analytica’s servers.
And what should you be doing?
Consider deleting your profile. I am. I’ve written about how to do that before and how to weigh deactivating your account versus deleting it. Consider carefully before making that choice.
Remember that the real illusion about Facebook is that there is anything significant we can actually do to protect our privacy. Facebook provides an effective privacy checkup tool, but it does nothing to limit the data that Facebook sees, or that Facebook decides to share with organizations willing to buy it, or even that hackers decide to target.
The data you’ve already shared on Facebook, from your profile to your posts and pictures is already lost. There is nothing you can do to protect it now. The only data you can protect is your future data that you choose to not share on Facebook. Here are my suggestions for a few pro-active steps you can take right now:
- Delete or deactivate your Facebook profile
- Reread my post about Facebook Privacy from 2013—unfortunately, all of it still applies today!
- Memorize this phrase: “Anything I put on Facebook is public, permanent and exploitable.”
- Tell some little white lies on your profile.
- And stop taking those quizzes!
John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on cybersecurity, identity theft and online privacy. He specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.
I get asked how to delete a Facebook account nearly every day; whether it’s at my speeches, by my clients, or by my friends and family. It used to be that people no longer wanted the mundane information overload that Facebook promotes. But now they are looking at it from a privacy perspective – they no longer want their thoughts, pictures, and videos shared indiscriminately with people they don’t know.
The defections have been sparked by Facebook’s continuing march to sell your private information (with only your implied consent, i.e., simply by using Facebook, you agree to their terms) with an ever widening circle of people who are NOT YOUR FRIENDS (advertisers, data miners, and unfortunately, identity thieves). Many of the corporations I speak for have me include a component on safe social networking because the information their employees are posting (personally or professionally) are damaging their corporate brand and profits either through data leakage or as a beach-head for social engineering and other types of fraud.
In past posts, I have pointed to the tools at your disposal to [intlink id=”143″ type=”category”]tighten down your Facebook security settings[/intlink]. But suddenly, that is no longer complete enough for people, as Facebook continues to erode what little privacy you can control. Just look at the privacy related Facebook news in the past few weeks:
- Today’s CNN Article about Facebook defection because of privacy concerns
- Facebook announces Open Graph, which shares your data with websites outside of Facebook to allow for more targeted advertising
- Security hole: Live chat messages and pending friend requests briefly available to ALL contacts forced Facebook to disable chat
So for those who actually want to take themselves off of Facebook (whether they want to delete their Facebook profile or simply deactivate it), let me give you the basics.
First of all, you need to know the difference between Deactivating and Deleting your Facebook account (I will walk you through the steps to do either). When you “deactivate” your account, Facebook merely suspends your account but retains all of your data in case you want to restore it at a later date (and in case they still want to sell it even though you are no longer active). When you “delete” your account, your information is permanently removed from Facebook (eventually) and cannot be restored if you change your mind. In other words, before you delete your account, make sure that you have original copies of any of the photos, videos, posts and contact lists in your profile. Once they are gone, they’re gone.
How To Deactivate Your Facebook Account:
Here are step-by-step instruction on how you can easily deactivate your account. Remember the difference between deactivation and deletion: deactivation is temporary so that you can reactivate your account if you wish to return to Facebook.
1. Log into your account and on the top right side select the padlock symbol (then “see more settings”) or the down arrow account symbol (and then “settings”). Either of these actions will lead you to the Security Settings page. When this screen pops up, click Security in the left-hand column.
2. At the bottom, you will see an option to Deactivate your account; it will bring you to something similar to this page:
Even after your account is “deactivated”, you can still be tagged in photos, invited to events, etc. Once again, you are still an active part of the social networking site, it’s just that you don’t get to use any of the tools available to active accounts (though Facebook continues to use your information). For a little additional privacy, be sure to “opt out” of emails at the bottom of the page if you don’t want to receive any communications.
3. The site will ask you to confirm your password as well as a “captcha” security word to confirm that you are a living, breathing defector and not a computer.
Remember, you can reactivate at any time by logging in with your email and password, although you must have access to your current login email address.
4. Following all of these steps, Facebook will send you an email confirmation entitled “You have deactivated your Facebook account”. Of course, the email gives you a way to reactivate your account – Facebook really wants you to stick around, as your information is what supports their bottom line.
If this doesn’t go far enough toward protecting your privacy…
How To Delete Your Facebook Account:
If you are certain that you won’t use Facebook again (at least with your current settings, posts, photos, videos, groups and pages) and would like your account deleted, please keep in mind that you will not be able to reactivate your account or retrieve any of the content or information you have added. If you would like your account permanently deleted with no option for recovery, follow these steps:
1. Log in to your account and then use this link to Permanently Delete Your Facebook Account (and regain some sense of privacy). You should see this page:
2. Click submit to continue, enter your password, complete the security check and click OK to make sure that you want to continue with Deletion. It should look something like this:
3. You will then be taken to one final page to confirm permanent deletion of your Facebook account:
Pay close attention to the second sentence. If you log into your account again (even automatically on your iPhone or in your browser or through an affiliated site like Twitter or LinkedIn) your profile will be reactivated.
4. After completing this process you should receive an email with a subject similar to: “Account Scheduled for Deletion”. At this point, you still have the option to cancel the request. Facebook will try to guilt you into staying (e.g., they may say that Joe Friend (one of your contacts) will really miss you).
Deleting your Facebook account is a very personal decision, but it is your right to have these tools for controlling privacy at your fingertips.
John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.
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