Your personal information doesn’t belong to Facebook.

(This post is part of my blog archiving project. This post appeared on on May 5th, 2008.)

Today I had to perform a lot of voodoo to delete my Facebook account. They allow you to deactivate it, but they keep your personal information. If you contact them to delete it, they’ll try to make you jump through a bunch of hoops.

The steps to deleting your Facebook account, in some definition of the term delete, are:

  1. Remove all the email addresses and networks associated with your account, except for your primary email address (the one we’re looking to liberate here). Deactivate your profile on the settings page.
  2. create a fake email address on Yahoo (Facebook is pretty good at detecting fake email addresses; they block BugMeNot, mailinator, and every other free-for-spam email service I could find as Google results)
  3. sign up for Facebook with new temporary account
  4. Add your ‘primary email address’ from your real account to this fake account. The email verification will ask if you want to delete the data in the other
  5. remove the ‘primary email address’ from real account on your fake account. Deactivate the fake account. Since it was empty, you can also ask them to delete this account in your reasons for leaving.

As Cory Doctorow writes, “We should treat personal electronic data with the same care and respect as weapons-grade plutonium – it is dangerous, long-lasting and once it has leaked there’s no getting it back.”

I say, as consumers and individuals, that we take back what is ours, our personal information. That we insist services delete our user data when we leave, and all the data accumulated from surveilling our every move on their site when we want it deleted. And that we stop being so passive about how and when we allow advertisers and spammers get our attention. Oh, and net neutrality would be nice, too.

Addendum, my comments addressed to Facebook when I deactivated my account:

Please let us know why you are deactivating.

  • I don’t feel safe on the site.
  • Facebook is resulting in social drama for me.
  • I don’t understand how to use the site.
  • I need to fix something in my account. 
  • I receive too many emails from Facebook.
  • I spend too much time using Facebook.
  • I don’t find Facebook useful.
  • Other:

A combination of the above really. But to truly understand it, you’d have to know me. Actually, isn’t that what Facebook is about, you get to know me to throw some targeted ads at me? Haha. Listen, I don’t want the notifications. I don’t want the apps. I don’t want the Google ads thrown at me anymore. I’m quitting because there is no reason for Facebook to exist, because you suck up a cognitive surplus worse than all the sitcoms and soap operas on television.

Don’t contact me. Don’t try to make me happy. Just leave me alone.