Saturday, 12 June 2010

There's been a bit of a stink recently around whether or not Facebook's account deletion process works the way they say it does. The number of people pontificating in the tech blogger fishbowl has been rather amazing, but I have yet to see someone actually take the time to create, delete and reactivate an account, log on via a third party tool after an account was deleted, see what happens, etc.

So, I did just that in order to find out how the Facebook account deletion and reactivation process works.

In a nutshell, it appeared to work as advertised, right up until I got to the end of my testing, at which point my account was (much to my surprise) reactivated without my explicit permission. It seems the steps one takes must be the defining factor with regard to whether or not it works the way the user expects and (I expect) the way Facebook intends for it to work. In fact, I am unable to reliably recreate the situation, as I describe below. But at least one time the Facebook system reactivated my account without my request to do so.

I'll say right now there's no signs of deception or anything on the part of Facebook. If anything, it's more likely an edge-case bug of sorts, and no harm is done.

Screen clips and description of what I did to test the process follow. I set out to do this with the purpose of documenting the steps along the way.

First of all, I created a new account (I don't want to delete my old one) under the user email ID of greg.pdx@gmail.com. You can try to add me if you want, and if I get any communications as a result I will be sure to update this post.


Next I received the confirmation email for account creation and clicked the link in the email to crete the account.


And so in a few minutes I had a new Facebook account and profile:


Next I added a couple friends and Chris Pirillo, true to form, was quick to accept the request. I then went to my iPad and started up BeeJive IM, which I use to chat on Facebook and Live Messenger at the same time.

It uses Facebook Connect to log into the Facebook chat system. I provided my credentials on the iPad, set the appropriate permissions, and was quickly logged in:


I then signed out of chat and returned to the browser on my notebook, where I visited the hard-to-find Facebook account deletion page at

http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account

and started that process.


and received the notification both on-screen and in email that my account was scheduled for deletion in 14 days (which, by the way, is a very good way to go about this on Facebook's part, but we can save that for another time).


I then logged back in and received this message:


I decided to try reactivating and deleting again, which it allowed me to do. I received email notifications as well as on on-screen confirmation. Here's the email:


Now for the important part. I then went back to my iPad and logged into Facebook Chat via BeeJive, here is what I saw:


The only option available was to reconnect. If I reauthenticate via Facebook Connect, I am presented with the below screen, asking me if I want to reactivate my account. I have to specifically tell it "yes" in order for that to happen. No emails were received notifying me I was reactivated like happened before.






But wait -- I then went back to by notebook once again and opened up my web browser, and tried to log back into Facebook. I expected to see the same screen shown directly above, but instead was surprise to see my Facebook profile page! Within seconds, an email arrived from Facebook, again welcoming me back to Facebook. The only problem is, I never clicked on the Cancel Request button to tell Facebook I wanted to cancel the deletion of my account.


What's even more interesting is the fact that when I tried to recreate the situation again, Facebook is functioning as advertised. I'm now being prompted and asked if I want to cancel deletion or deactivate the account, where before I got the unexpected welcome-back email.

Well, it's certainly strange. Perhaps there's an edge-case issue/bug here that requires some specific order of operations to trigger. All I know is it happened to me, and frankly I was pretty surprised when it did. Facebook has some of the best talent in the industry and they work amazing technical miracles every day. But, bugs do happen. Maybe there's a log somewhere in the bowels of Facebook's data centers that can show what happened here, and someone can figure it out.

Before I finish, a brief comment on the 14-day deletion window. People are screaming that if they want something deleted, it should be deleted right now. Unfortunately, in the real world bad people steal passwords, drunk friends pull stupid pranks, drink account holders make stupid decisions (and I am specifically referring to account deletion, not drunk photo and video posting). There are many, many good reasons for a deletion grace period, reasons that protect users. I am glad they have it, and I think it would be negligent not to provide that to users considering the size, scope and importance of the service provided.



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Tech
Saturday, 12 June 2010 09:53:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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http://www.whori.com/site/geschichten24.net [Referral]
http://www.businessinsider.com/deleting-your-facebook-accoun... [Referral]
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Sunday, 13 June 2010 11:23:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
This was interesting, thanks Greg. I tweeted a link to it. I'll be curious to see what happens in 15 days :)
Thursday, 14 October 2010 02:16:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Hi, I followed your steps and got my account "scheduled for deletion" exactly 2 weeks ago. I want to check if it's been deleted but I'm scared it will reactivate my account and I'll have to wait 14 more days.
So... What happened next? :) Thank you.
MaryAnn Jones
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