Deleted Facebook Pics Still There 16 Months Later

Whether it's a photo of you doing a keg stand at a college party or an embarrassing picture of a friend that you've been ordered to remove, there are tons of reasons you might want to delete pictures from your Facebook. Maybe it's you and an ex-girlfriend, or maybe you decided you didn't want Facebook to have your photos. Whatever your reason, you might be interested in knowing that Facebook seems to hold on to those photos for quite a while after you remove them from your profile.

Ars Technica's Jacqui Cheng last year wrote a piece about whether or not social networks really delete your photos when you ask them to. That little experiment showed Facebook to be the worst offender for leaving deleted photos online and accessible. Facebook told Ars Technica that the photos were no longer accessible despite the fact that they were still on their server. "A statement that's obviously false if you have a direct link to the image file, as we do," Cheng counters.

At the time Facebook told her that it was working with its CDN partner to "significantly reduce the amount of time backup copies persist," but Cheng this week decided to revisit the topic because, as her readers pointed out, the photo she deleted as part of her experiment is still available 16 months later. Just how long is Facebook going to have her photo online and available? Well, according to the Facebook team it's practically gone and they wouldn't even be able to find it themselves.

"For all practical purposes, the photo no longer exists, and we wouldn’t be able find it if we were asked or even compelled to do so," Facebook spokesperson Simon Axten told Ars when queried. "This is similar to what happens when you delete information from the hard drive of your computer."

"It's possible that someone who previously had access to a photo and saved the direct URL from our content delivery network partner could still access the photo," Axten said. "However, again, the person would have to know the URL, and the photo only exists in the CDN's cache for a limited amount of time. We're working with the CDN to reduce the amount of time that the photo remains in its cache."

Leaving aside the fact that most would consider 16 months more than a "limited time" Facebok is capable of deleting these photos on a case by case basis. As soon as the Ars Technica story started to gather traction on the internet, the company deleted the photo Jacqui requested be deleted 16 months ago from its server. Unfortunately, others have not been so lucky. One reader submitted a direct link to a photo that he deleted in April of 2009, while another says a semi-nude picture of his son that was uploaded by a relative but deleted soon after still remains online more than two and a half years after it was deleted.

Facebook's Simon Axten has been in contact with Ars since and had this to say.

"We're currently working with the CDN on a fix that will delete photo and video content from the CDN's cache shortly after it's removed on Facebook. The fix is already in place for videos, and we hope to implement it for profile pictures and photos in the coming weeks."

Perhaps we'll try our own little experiment now that Facebook has promised to speed things up for profile pictures. I've deleted mine, but saved the direct link to it on Facebook's servers so we'll see how long it stays accessible.

Source: Ars Technica

Jane McEntegart works in marketing communications at Intel and was previously Manager of Content Marketing at ASUS North America. Before that, she worked for more than seven years at Tom's Guide and Tom's Hardware, holding such roles as Contributing Editor and Senior News Editor and writing about everything from smartphones to tablets and games consoles.