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May 22, 2009

Are Facebook photos forever? The site responds

Posted: 09:45 AM ET

Here's an update to yesterday's post about photos on social networks and blogs living online after you delete them. [For background: Cambridge did a study that found photos don't go away 30 days after you delete them from several sites, including Facebook, MySpace, hi5 and Bebo.]

I got a response from Facebook last night. Here it is, as e-mailed to CNN:

As stated in the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, the governing document for the site, “when you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).“  We are working with our content delivery network (CDN) partner to significantly reduce the amount of time that backup copies persist.

What about the report (the CDN issue)?

It is possible that someone who previously had access to a photo and saved the direct URL from our content delivery network partner (this is different from the Facebook URL) could still access that photo.  We are working with our content delivery network (CDN) partner to significantly reduce the amount of time that these backup copies persist.

Thanks to those of you who responded to the post with comments. Several of you expressed concerns that photos might live online after you'd like them to be gone. Others said this is common sense by now: everyone should know not to post something on the Internet unless they would like it to live forever.

Here are a few of my favorite responses:

A user named "El Common Sense" wrote: "People don’t think about what they post online and one of these days, it will come up and bite them in the butt. I’m amazed at just how much personal info is shared and then people are afraid of ID theft, terrorists and whatever else?"

Nigel wrote that he'd noticed this problem on Facebook: "I was surprised to hear someone report seeing a posted photograph on Facebook a week or more after I had deleted it."

Jon raised another issue: What if someone else posts a photo of you?

Then there is the problem of OTHER people posting pictures of you online. There’s little you can do about those aside from removing the tag on Facebook or telling the poster to cease and desist. Easy blackmail, anyone?

On that point, here's a post from New York Times that explains how you can keep people from being able to search for photos of you on Facebook. The writer says you can't prevent people from tagging you in photos, though. Do you all think that feature should be added to the site?

[UPDATE at 3:18 p.m. ET: Smart point on untagging, from Noelle in the comments: "A note on the NY Times article. While Facebook does allow anyone to tag you in photos, you can remove the tag, and it can’t be re-tagged after you’ve removed it. Plus, all photos in which you’re tagged show up under your photos, so you can find them easily."]

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Filed under: Facebook • social-networking sites

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