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Social Networks Privacy The Internet

Facebook A Black Hole For Personal Info 242

Posted by Zonk
from the halp-meee-halp-meee dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times has an article on how Facebook is so sticky it is nearly impossible to get loose. While the Web site offers users the option to deactivate their accounts, Facebook servers keep copies of the information in those accounts indefinitely. Many users who have contacted Facebook to request that their accounts be deleted have not succeeded in erasing their records from the network. 'It's like the Hotel California,' said Nipon Das, a user who tried unsuccessfully to delete his account. 'You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.' It took Mr. Das two months and several e-mail exchanges with Facebook's customer service representatives to erase most of his information from the site, which finally occurred after he sent an e-mail threatening legal action. But even after that, a reporter was able to find Mr. Das's empty profile on Facebook and successfully sent him an e-mail message through the network. Facebook's quiet archiving of information from deactivated accounts has increased concerns about the network's potential abuse of private data, especially in the wake of its fumbled Beacon advertising feature."
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Facebook A Black Hole For Personal Info

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  • The one lesson (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:30AM (#22391730)
    Thus, the one true lesson about internet privacy: once it's out there, it's out there FOREVER.

    Be smart about what you put online and for pete's sake don't let anyone take naked photos of you, 'cuz they *will* end up online, and it will be *hilarious*.
  • by obstalesgone (1231810) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:34AM (#22391788) Homepage
    When you hand over the info to Facebook, you agree to let them have it. Why on earth would they be expected to delete it?

    I agree that it seems unusual, and that maybe it's an unanticipated side-effect of giving your info to a social networking site that your data may persist forever, but I really don't think they're doing anything immoral.
  • hating facebook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boxlight (928484) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:34AM (#22391800)
    I'm really starting to hate facebook. Friends have posted photos I want to see, other friends have commented on those photos and I want to read them. But I don't see any notifications on my main news feed about any of this. But I get tons of crap about vampires and I seem to get notified about people I don't know becoming friends with people I hardly know.

    Can someone suggest a cleaner, more useful alternative to facebook that I can try and talk all my friends into joining?
  • by Osurak (1013927) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:37AM (#22391818)
    I'm pretty impressed with their business model. To get the most out of a social network, you have to plug in as much data about yourself as possible, which point Facebook can turn around and either sell that information sell to advertisers, or use it to advertise to you directly. Even if you realize what's going on, you can't leave without feeling socially ostracized. And finally, even if you get past that, they won't delete your stuff anyway.

    Really, the only thing you can do to throw a wrench in the works is to falsify the entire contents of your profile. It would be very interesting to see if you could use that to influence the behavior of advertisers. For example, I wonder what would happen if every account suddenly added "Cowboy Neal" to the Interests field. Facebook bombing, anyone?
  • by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:41AM (#22391878)
    You mean that if I upload all kinds of personal information and data to a third party's web servers that I have no direct or even indirect control over, I might have trouble later removing that info at my whim?

    Seriously, even if Facebook did have a motivation for fully scrubbing users data when asked, I would think just Facebook employee incompetence would result in a certain percentage of information being left. And from Facebook's perspective, how many times do you think they have to deal with a user wanting everything they ever posted/uploaded gone forever one week, then wanting it all back and restored perfectly the next?

    If you don't want it in the public realm, don't upload it/post it. Simple as that.
  • Because They Can (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:42AM (#22391890)
    Facebook pulls this crap because they know most people are too lazy, stupid and/or indifferent to give a crap about what happens to their personal information. Those same people will be the first to whine about how unfair it is if they win a lottery and somebody tracks down their relatives and holds a child for ransom.
  • Re:Easy Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VirusEqualsVeryYes (981719) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:45AM (#22391934)
    The definition of "easy" seems to have changed since last I checked.
  • Re:hating facebook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mushdot (943219) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:46AM (#22391938) Homepage

    Here's the best one for all your local friends to join: The Pub. It's great, you get to talk to each other face to face! I joined this group when I was about 15, and I've enjoyed it ever since. Only real friends join my group and we can buy each other REAL drinks.

    If you like you can write on the wall, but I don't think the publican will be too happy.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:48AM (#22391980)
    Funny in this context? Yes. Seriously though, Slashdot has a lot less information about its users than Facebook. You don't have real names, or pictures with people's real names, or graphs of who knows who and when they met, or anything to that effect on Slashdot. Using my Slashdot account or posting history, I'd be impressed if you could figure out where I live or go to school to within less than 300 miles; compare with Facebook, which has my real name and the name and location of my school.

    Not to be a fanboy.

  • Good idea but.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by diskofish (1037768) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:50AM (#22392010)
    Since a snapshot can be made of the site at any point in time, it is possible to go back and view the "legit" data. When you post something on the interweb, it could be there for good. One example: archive.org.
  • Re:Ditch facebook! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:51AM (#22392022)
    In case you haven't noticed... no one does care. That is... no one in the rest of the world. My brother and his friends (late 20s, some in their 30s) have just gotten into Facebook and think it's the greatest thing. Even if I told them about this story and explained that they could practically never remove their data from the site... "so what?" would be the response, I reckon.

    Of course that's only on small group of examples - but the rest of the world doesn't share the same privacy concerns as many here do. If you ask them though, of course they care - but would they do something about it or help to fix the issues? Nope.
  • by Lord Pillage (815466) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:56AM (#22392064)
    Quoted from the parent of my original post:

    If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire

    So in fact the license expires as soon as you remove the content. From reading some of the other posts here, it seems that Facebook tries to make a difference between "removing" material and "deactivating" material. I guess if all you do is "deactivate" you account, you're technically not removing it and thus Facebook retains its license, so one must remove their material. If Facebook then retains that information, I would say they are then in violate of copyright.

  • Re:Good (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Captain Splendid (673276) * <capsplendid.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:57AM (#22392074) Homepage Journal
    Hey, when you get a minute, email me your home address. I want to go to your house and stare at you all day.

    Note to mods: Don't bother modding this OT/flamebait/troll/stalker or whatever. I'm just continuing a conversation with parent that we've been having for a while, so don't bother wasting any points.
  • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:59AM (#22392096) Homepage
    'tis true.. we are all freaks in our own way. The more realize that the less we'll have people thinking there's something bad about them simply because they like to enjoy life.

    Which probably means 'normal' isn't what the press would like you to think it is.
  • by TortiusMaximus (719234) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @10:02AM (#22392118)
    >>You don't know much about the Hotel California, do you? Neither do you, it would appear: http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/hotel.asp [snopes.com]
  • by bockelboy (824282) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @10:20AM (#22392316)
    Or live in Europe.

    Most of Europe, from my understanding, has very strict privacy policies regarding personal data. You must have data retention policies detailing when the information will automatically go away, always allow customers to opt out, and always allow customers to remove their data.

    Thank god we have freewheeling capitalism where companies can sell my personal data with no consequence.

    I'm sure someone can point out something wrong with the European system, but it sure is a whole hell of a lot better than the US one.
  • by COMON$ (806135) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @10:22AM (#22392348) Journal
    Exactly, People need to realize that once data hits a public facing server unsecured you can say goodby to any privacy. From that point on you will be archived, scraped, spidered, copied, pasted, jacked off to, daydreamed about, blogged, included in research, and a million other things you never intended to happen. Tell ya what consider anything you put on a server where the public has access Lost to the massive copying machine that is the web.

    But that is the way it should be, The internet was made to be resilliant, and it does a damn good job of it. So before you start suing companies and yelling at people about not being able to erase your data, maybe you should have a good solid hand-to-forhead moment an realize you are a dumbass.

  • by sherriw (794536) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @10:31AM (#22392476)
    Your data isn't just in Facebook's servers, but also potentially those of all the third part apps you've ever added to your profile. I've stripped out all my personal info so my profile is bare bones... but it's kinda too late since I had it in there before.

    Not just personal data, but your relationship to all your friends list. If you 'went to school with' so and so, then it's easy to find out what school you went to based on what school your friend went to. If you have cousins on there... odds are one of them has a last name the same as your mother's maiden name. Yeah... the 'how do you know this person' info is bad too.
  • by Pazy (1169639) <Pazy160@Hotmail.com> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @10:33AM (#22392490)
    Personally they can keep my account all they want, If I have it avalible to the world then its out there already. Since I started using the internet ive known not to put anything anywhere you dont want publicically avalible forever.
    Though as for Facebooks right to do this? I dont think so. They may have some sort of backward legal right to do this but if thats the case someone needs to get some sort of action together to stop it. If not they will end up simply licencing the data off to companies, if anyones making money of your life it should be you.
  • Re:Ditch facebook! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FuzzyDaddy (584528) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @10:35AM (#22392524) Journal
    It's becoming an issue with real consequences. I've told the story before of the Argosy psychology student who was expelled because she was leading substance abuse support groups for her internship, and posted tales of her weekend drunken exploits online.

    The fact that this record is permanent adds to the importance of being careful what you put on line. My oldest is 8, and when she starts getting into this, it's a lesson I hope I can teach her. The tactic I've heard with parents who do allow their children have an online presence is to tell them "I will be looking at your profile every day. Don't put up anything you don't want me to see.". It makes them realize, on a deep level, that this stuff isn't private.

    In case you haven't noticed... no one does care.

    Sadly, I've noticed. I think you're right. I just wish it wasn't so. It's hard to see something so clearly when most other people don't... it makes me feel like a Ron Paul supporter or something.

  • by Captain Splendid (673276) * <capsplendid.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @10:54AM (#22392802) Homepage Journal
    From that point on you will be archived, scraped, spidered, copied, pasted, jacked off to, daydreamed about, blogged, included in research, and a million other things you never intended to happen.

    As funny, scary and true as that is, does anyone realize that there's a whole generation of kids, who've never really known life without the 'web, who not only know this but actively count on it?
  • by Tokah (859694) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @11:51AM (#22393586)
    It scares me more that they're coming of voting age, with no concept of the importance of privacy and civil liberties.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @12:28PM (#22394074)
    I'm not worried about it being a black hole for information. Sucking in information and never releasing it.
    I'm more worried about it being a worm hole. Sucking in information and spitting it out...who knows where?!
  • by shellbeach (610559) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @07:01PM (#22399996)

    Note to mods: Don't bother modding this OT/flamebait/troll/stalker or whatever. I'm just continuing a conversation with parent that we've been having for a while, so don't bother wasting any points.
    Hmmm .... while we're offtopic, can I put in a request for "-1 Fucking Stupid" and "-1 Uninformative" moderation options? Too many times have I seen someone get modded up writing incorrect drivel, and the only option you can use is "Overrated".

    Let's get some angst into our moderation, /.ers! No more Mr. Nice Geek!

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