On The Deleting of Facebook Profiles

by Art Fag City on February 16, 2009 · 4 comments Events

Art Fag City, Sasha Frere Jones twitter, Facebook
Sasha Frere Jones takes issue with Facebook Terms of Services and deletes his account in protest, screengrab AFC

While I’m busy trying to make sure Facebook doesn’t accidentally erase my profile, today I read publishing personalities have apparently gone mad and started deleting them on their own.  This frenzy all started because Consumerist wrote a scary — and as it turns out inaccurate — account about social networks’ new Terms of Service.  According to blogger Chris Walters, while Facebook once claimed that the license to all content a user uploads would expire upon the deletion of that account, it now retains the rights to that material even after its closure.  However, he failed to mention they kept the right “to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.”

J F Quackenbush‘s not a lawyer, but he has enough sense to point out that Facebook can only use your content to promote their own services.  He also makes the following salient point,

No doubt all these people who are terrified that Big Brother is now going to use their kids photos to instigate right wing counterinsurgencies in the third world or whatever have hard drives full of pirated music and video downloaded via bit torrents and thereby stolen from people who have intellectual property rights that are actually of some real value, which, frankly, all yr crap on Facebook is not.

If Facebook wants to use my “crap” for promotional purposes, then all the better for me– it’s free advertising.

Meanwhile, should your profile disappear for seemingly no reason, a user has very little recourse.  Witness the following email correspondence between Facebook and a friend who tried to log into his account recently and found his password didn’t work.  He reset it, and upon regaining access found that his friend count had gone from 300 to zero.  Original support ticket submitted January 25th, 2009:

From: Facebook Support
Date: February 3, 2009 5:17:03 PM EST
To: redacted
Subject: Re: FRIENDS: Account problem — hacked?
Reply-To: Facebook Support

Hi,

I just reset your password.

Login:
New Password: H1LbFDT

Please note that Facebook passwords are case sensitive (FACEbook is not the same as facebook).  If you’re having trouble with this login/password combination, I suggest copying and pasting the login and password into the appropriate fields.

Once logged in, you can change your password from the “Settings” tab of the Account page.  Let me know if you have any further questions.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

Riley
User Operations
Facebook

From: [Redacted]
To: Facebook Support
Subject: Re: FRIENDS: Account problem — hacked?

Hello,

As I had mentioned in my original support request, I tried to log onto my Facebook account yesterday and found that my password did not work. I reset my password, and then set up a new one. However, once logged on, I found that my entire list of nearly 300 friends has been deleted. I’m wondering whether this is a system problem, or whether my account has been hacked. Is there a log of changes that would show what the recent changes in my account are? I believe that the last time I logged into my account before Sunday was last Thursday, Jan. 22nd.

Thanks for your assistance.

cheers

From: Facebook Support
Date: February 12, 2009 5:48:56 PM EST
To: [Redacted]
Subject: Re: FRIENDS: Account problem — hacked?
Reply-To: Facebook Support

Hi
Unfortunately, we cannot release the information you requested unless we receive a valid subpoena or court order.  Additionally, please be aware that there are situations where we may be unable to retrieve the information that you have requested due to technical limitations.  You should contact a lawyer or your local law enforcement agency and discuss this issue with them.  If you decide to pursue legal action, have the lawyer or officer contact us at privacy@facebook.com, and we’ll communicate with them regarding the issue.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thanks,

Riley
User Operations
Facebook

From: [redacted]
To: Facebook Support
Subject: Re: FRIENDS: Account problem — hacked?

Hello,

Thank you for this, but it does not answer my question: is there a log or record of changes made to Facebook accounts, whereby I can figure out how all of my friends were deleted from my account?

thanks

No further correspondence has occurred, though at this rate the user will likely have all their friends back if and when the dispute is resolved.

Given that at this point Facebook is nearly as useful as my gmail account (which does not seem to suffer the same accidental closures), the prospect of having to employ a lawyer purely for the purposes of customer service seems more than a little absurd to me.  Just because a web tool doesn’t cost anything to use does not mean functionability shouldn’t be ensured if it is a vital part of your practice.   As one of the largest referrers of traffic to my site, Facebook certainly falls into that category.

  • Pingback: Usability Counts | User Experience, Social Media()

  • http://www.ethanham.com/blog Ethan

    I wonder if this is a situation where the customer support representative is confused about Facebook’s policies. Requiring having a court order mailed to privacy@facebook.com is ludicrous when inquiring about one’s own account–but it would be reasonable (and in fact desirable) if it were an inquiry about someone else’s account.

  • http://www.ethanham.com/blog Ethan

    I wonder if this is a situation where the customer support representative is confused about Facebook’s policies. Requiring having a court order mailed to privacy@facebook.com is ludicrous when inquiring about one’s own account–but it would be reasonable (and in fact desirable) if it were an inquiry about someone else’s account.

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