How to leave Facebook - followup 3

On the 14th December the UK Information Commissioner's Office set me an update on my complaint about Facebook's refusal to remove your data when you try to close your account. Here's what the ICO said:

I write to let you know that I am in the process of arranging a meeting with Facebook to discuss a number of privacy related issues. One of these is exactly that you have described in your enquiry. Since this would appear to be a policy Facebook apply to all user accounts, it would be useful if we could use your enquiry as an example of where the ICO believes Facebook policies may be unlikely to comply with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. It certainly appears that the answers you were given by Facebook do not exactly tally with their response to the story on Channel 4.

I believe that by discussing your case with them in the context of their general approach to privacy and personal data, this will assist Facebook in the process of ensuring that all their policies are compliant with the Act and all their users are treated fairly rather than simply achieving compliance in response to individual complaints.

So the ICO clearly believe that Facebook don't comply with the Data Protection Act, and they want Facebook to have a reasonable policy for allowing account closures, rather than forcing people to have to fight to get their accounts closed on a case-by-case basis, as I had to do. Hopefully the process of closing your Facebook account will become much easier in the not-too-distant future.

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Re: How to leave Facebook - followup 3

One of the things that scares the living daylights out of me is those databases any company has at the back end. Other than illegally hacking into their system, something I do not want to do, there is no way of ever knowing if they truly destroyed all the data they'd have on an individual... there could always be that stray backup tape, unencrypted, or that laptop, getting into the wrong hands.

Companies have misused and betrayed people's trust far too many times... which is why don't believe ANY company, no matter what claims they might make about erasing my data.

That's the sad reality of the world we live in today. But the worst is yet to come. Orwell's vision was a grim one indeed... and I'm going to live to experience it. I shudder at the future of the big brother and the police state.

Welcome to the animal farm.

Re: How to leave Facebook - followup 3

I can only bitterly agree !

I have been considering things that could be done by the public to protect themselves.
One idea was that, say everyone would have a Java app that connected to a encrypted network inside the internet and keep big brother out. But how do you know _who is_ this big brother on our network ?


Re: How to leave Facebook - followup 3

Hi Alan

I recently had a similar encounter with Facebook, that was only resolved through threats to contact the ICO and TRUSTe. Now that it is resolved I still have reservations as apparently friends can still see my old messages etc - though they are now linked to a name of 'someone'

I cant find a way to contact you, but if you'd like to drop me an email I can forward on the email message exchange that I went through.

In any case - please keep us all informed of the progress!

Kindest regards - Paul

Re: How to leave Facebook - followup 3

Hi Paul,

Interesting to hear that even after your account has been deleted people can still see your posts - I'm not sure the ICO will consider that to be adequate. If you want to mail me, use my first and second name followed by the domain of who I work for :-)

Re: How to leave Facebook - followup 3

Hi Alan

I am writing an article on the very complex complaint made by law students in Ottawa to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada about Facebook privacy violations, which includes, among many other points, this issue of not being able to permanently delete an account.

Can you tell me the status of the ICO investigation as of March 2009? When are they expected to release their investigation report?

Murray Long
Privacy Consultant

Re: How to leave Facebook - followup 3

@Murray, Yes, they finished their investigation, and Facebook did change their policy, from what the ICO told me. However I never received a formal case report as such, you might like to ask the ICO directly. The case number was ENQ0182614.