Before Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica trainwreck, before the investigations began, before Facebook promised to audit apps, before a WhatsApp cofounder and a Google employee and even Elon Musk chimed in, there were plenty of other Facebook “scandals.” Calls to #deletefacebook are nothing new, although this one appears to be pretty bad. So at the start of this year, before last week’s fiasco that dominated the news this whole week, I decided to document the deleting of a Facebook account.
The date was January 11, 2018. To be clear, I didn’t delete my main Facebook account — that’s not for everyone and I personally rely on Messenger too much. I simply wanted to see how easy, or difficult, deleting a Facebook account was, so I deleted a test account I had created many years ago for a separate story.
My mission was straightforward: Find out what the process is like for deleting a Facebook account in 2018. I had heard many tales over the years, including back when I wrote about Facebook exclusively, that your account is only ever deactivated — never deleted. If you want to come back and try logging in, Facebook will happily let you back in.
In 2018 at least, that’s not true.
The call to #deletefacebook usually means one of three things: Deleting the app on your phone (which you can always reinstall), changing your profile picture to show you’ve left Facebook (which allows you to keep using apps that depend on the service), or actually deleting your account and never looking back. I was testing the last option.
Deleting your Facebook account
Facebook’s settings let you deactivate your account or set it to delete after you pass away. There’s no option to actually delete your account. To do that, you’ll have to request an account deletion by navigating to facebook.com/help/delete_account.
There, you will be presented with a warning:
If you do not think you will use Facebook again and would like your account deleted, we can take care of this for you. 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 still like your account deleted, click “Delete My Account”.
After you hit “Delete My Account,” you’ll be asked to enter your password and hit a confirm button.
You may also be presented with a different screen with a captcha. In that case, you’ll have to enter your password, a captcha, and hit OK.
Once you’ve confirmed, you will get this message:
Your account has been deactivated from the site and will be permanently deleted within 14 days. If you log into your account within the next 14 days, you will have the option to cancel your request.
You’ll also get an email confirmation that says the same thing, in slightly different words:
We have received a request to permanently delete your account. Your account has been deactivated from the site and will be permanently deleted within 14 days.
If you did not request to permanently delete your account, please login to Facebook to cancel this request:
That’s it. You’re done.
Don’t log in for two weeks
Well, not quite. Over the next two weeks, if you do log into your Facebook account, you’ll be asked to confirm again:
Your account is scheduled for deletion. Are you sure you wish to permanently delete your account?
There will be two options to choose from: “Confirm Deletion” or “Cancel Deletion.”
Also during those two weeks, you may get emails from Facebook about coming back to the site. If you resist the temptation for 14 days, you will not be able to log in.
I tried logging in to my account after 10 weeks. I can confirm that my account really is truly gone:
There’s no going back from this. If you delete your Facebook account in 2018 and don’t log back in, you will have to start from scratch.
Maybe that’s a good thing for you. Maybe it’s not.
Keep in mind that the 50 million Facebook profiles that Cambridge Analytica allegedly got access to did not come from 50 million accounts. It came from the roughly 270,000 users who gave access not just to their information, but to the data of their friends.
Facebook may have closed that loophole years ago, but there very well could be others. Always remember that any data you upload online is never truly secure.
That means a few things. First, you may want to download your data before you delete your account (Settings => Download a copy of your Facebook data => Start My Archive).
Secondly, you’ll have to accept that not all your data will be deleted right away, and some of it may continue to live on at Facebook:
When you delete your account, people won’t be able to see it on Facebook. It may take up to 90 days from the beginning of the deletion process to delete all of the things you’ve posted, like your photos, status updates or other data stored in backup systems. While we are deleting this information, it is inaccessible to other people using Facebook.
Some of the things you do on Facebook aren’t stored in your account. For example, a friend may still have messages from you even after you delete your account. That information remains after you delete your account.
And lastly, you should take a look at your Facebook privacy settings. For this particular scandal, cut down the list of apps that are tied to your Facebook account and limit what they can access.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.