SciTechBlog   « Back to Blog Main
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."]

Posted by:
Filed under: Facebook • social-networking sites

Share this on:
Steven   May 22nd, 2009 11:26 am ET

My wife deleted her Facebook account over 6 months ago and to this day, nothing has been removed from their site. She has sent several emails to the company insisting that her pictures be removed but Facebook will not comply. What exactly is a reasonable amount of time in the halls of Facebook? It appears from the outside that Facebook is more concerned with boasting about how many members they have than following their Rights and Responsibilities Statement. If you subtract the users who have deleted accounts you would see their market share drop significantly.

Mike Graziano   May 22nd, 2009 12:43 pm ET

Thats nothing, with Youtube, if you bookmark a video on your iphone, even if it is removed later due to its content.. clicking the link will still bring up the video in full length.
Course now I ruined it ... 🙂

Duane in Fremont   May 22nd, 2009 1:32 pm ET

Facebook (and others) should do a better job of removing deleted photos and canceled accounts. However, this is also user error – people who post scandalous, questionable, or risque photos of themselves on any site – they should know better and are asking for trouble down the line. Stop trying to be "cool" with your friends and don't post any photo you wouldn't want your mom or boss at work to see.

james   May 22nd, 2009 1:57 pm ET

myspace does the same thing as far as not deleting a profile completely, even after multiple requests.
the way i see it, don't post anything you're not 100% sure you want others to see. it's a known fact that things are not deleted completely, whether it's from website or even your home email. it's out there somewhere for possibly a long period. but then, it's likely no one will care enough to try to find the stuff either. be responsible is all!

Brian   May 22nd, 2009 2:38 pm ET

Honestly, I think everyone should quit whining so much about Facebook and all the terrible things they do to society. First, if you don't want your information out there, you should never open up a Facebook account. End of story. Second, if you do open up a profile on Facebook, you should have your privacy settings in such a way that only those you deem worthy can access your information. Third, and most importantly, why would anyone think that pictures of their cat, office party, or "cute" kids are of any more concern than anyone else? Do you think your pictures are that important? If you don't have anything to hide, share away! Facebook is a wonderful way to connect with people in a new and inventive way. Those of you who are stuck in the mud on this subject should go back to being a pen pal. God knows the United States Postal Service could use your $0.44!

Noelle   May 22nd, 2009 2:39 pm ET

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.

Colleen   May 23rd, 2009 11:02 am ET

I think they should enable a feature that asks your permission before someone can tag you in an photo.

Joe   May 23rd, 2009 11:39 am ET

Yes, people should be careful about what they post. However they have no control over what others post. Facebook has an option to detele a tag of yourself when someone tags you, but apparently even if you were to convince that person to delete the photo it is still available. Even if you don't have a Facebook account, there is a very good chance that there is a pic of you on facebook somehwere. Family gatherings, partys, social events, all could land you on Facebook and apparently Facebook doesn't really care all that much if you stay there.

FamDing   May 23rd, 2009 6:40 pm ET

Why not use This social network is family oriented and much more private so you don't run into these issues.

theresa   May 24th, 2009 4:28 am ET

People who are not your Facebook "friends" can tag photos with your name, though those photos won't be linked to your profile. You're still tagged, but you won't know it. You will not see these photos under "photos of" you, because they could be of anyone with your name (even if you happen to be the only person with that name on Facebook.) I imagine that photos posted by people who don't think or know you're looking may be more of a concern for many people. Many profiles are left visible to all users of a network, which can be as large as all FB users in or from the New York City or Washington DC areas. A few profiles are even visible to all users. As for the privacy of photos within friends-only profiles, read on

Many friends-only Facebook users also post photo albums which are set to be visible to "everyone." Even though their profiles are visible only to friends, friends of their friends can see any comments by the mutual friends, and also when those mutual friends are tagged in or "like" the photos. (Unless the mutual friends have disabled posting of those items from their Walls, but that is uncommon.) The friends-of-friends, who may be complete strangers or willfully excluded from Facebook friendship, can then click and view all photos in the same album.

If any of the photo posters' friends are visible to all users in their networks, or all users on Facebook, then for the same reasons as above, their photos can easily be visible to all of those users, too.

Also, when any user posts a photo directly to the Wall, an album called Wall Photos is automatically generated, and its default setting is to be visible to "everyone." So even if a user is careful to create only friends-only albums, the same thing as above can occur if a friend comments on, "likes," or is tagged in one of those wall photos. The Wall Photos album needs to be manually set to be visible to friends only.

Karin   May 24th, 2009 8:42 am ET

Yes, stop hotlinking too. Meaning, if you have an image at another service, do not pull the image from that outside source to facebook, myspace, where ever. Please upload the original image to whichever service you wish to utilize.

It is costing the source server holding the image bandwidth usage which adds up if this scenario persists. It doesn't come cheap.....

Eventually, prices will be driven up.... Someone will need to pay the overhead at some point. Especially with all the ad-blockers....

heather newnan   May 24th, 2009 10:37 am ET

I'm waiting for the first lawsuit by a private individual against one of these social networking sites for misuse/misappropriation of one's likeness. It's just a gross violation of constitutional privacy rights that myspace, facebook etc allow OTHERS to post pictures of us without our consent. Not all of us want every detail of our lives in the public eye, and what remedies do we have against this intrustion? I don't see what the big fuss is about images people have posted of themselves being up longer – you posted them! – the real problem is pictures we have no control over. Facebook should be required by law to have a do not post list similar to the federal do not call list for telemarketers. Our founders fought so that we could have individual liberties, Why are we so eager to give them away?!

Craig   May 24th, 2009 11:30 am ET

I agree with Brian, these people have nobody to blame but themselves. These Myspace and Facebook sites are a total nuisance and I stay away from them, to me they seem to be aimed at teenage girls.

Leah   May 24th, 2009 12:28 pm ET

Brian I completely agree! I really get sick of all the nonsense. Those who use Face Book and did not realize that content does not just "disappear" need to go to take a basic course in computers. I am a computer idiot and even I knew this was the case. Face Book is wonderful for all of us who use it responsibly and most of us are aware of these things. Social networking keeps me in touch with people that I would not be in touch with as often as I am now and in addition, I am always aware of new job opportunities through my extended networks. I respect those that don't wish to participate–that is your choice but quit griping about things you all should have been aware of to begin with:)

patricia   May 24th, 2009 3:23 pm ET

Hi there, Thank you for this article and for posting the subsequent comments from Facebook.

I want to also caution Internet users on another fact. Blog entries on popular web sites such as and MANY others will live for a period of about 90 days even after you delete them. Why? Google has bots that "take pictures" in time of web sites and provide them in history for searches. I know this first hand, I was threatened with a lawsuit from a place of business because I posted "unfavorable" comments about their facilities. Even though I removed them, that content kept coming up in searches for about 90 days. Finally, they disappeared.

Generally speaking, you should NOT POST anything that you don't want "remembered." I personally do not believe that when I delete my cookies, browser history and others that it "really goes away."

Thank you again


Left Without an Option   May 24th, 2009 9:12 pm ET

Somehow, it's always left out of this conversation that the person who has the least control of what information of theirs is posted online is the person who chooses to abstain from Facebook entirely. I don't like the site or its community, so I made a simple decision: I deactivated my account (years ago, only a few months after it was launched).

Now, people can post pictures of me, and tag those photos with my name, and not only can I not remove the photos, I also cannot untag them. By deciding the internet is too public for my tastes, I'm left with no option in keeping my information private.

hell_yeah   May 25th, 2009 2:27 am ET

photos usually is copyrighted to the photographer, NOT the persons in the photos. any photo of people in a public setting is public property, thus an individual cannot choose to remove his/her photo if that photo was taken by another person.
the rationale behind this is that everything on the public domain IS on public domain. if you don't want embarrassing photos of you posted on facebook, DON'T do embarrassing stuff in public!

bumble   August 24th, 2010 7:36 pm ET

How many people have had their Facebook and CNN accounts linked
#1 Without their permission?
#2 And are not able to unlink?
Does your CNN photo always follow your Facebook photo even if the account link is disabled?

Smiciamreargo   September 17th, 2011 3:52 pm ET

I'm new here so I apologize if this is posted in the wrong forum.
I've read that google is spying on us and tracks all our searches and activities on the internet and maybe sell this information to marketing companies.
check this out

what should I do?
Use other search engines such as :

website design vancouver   February 16th, 2012 12:51 am ET

I just came across and I want to say: "What a beautiful picture!" I will surely contact you if we need a professional photographer.

Samir   April 3rd, 2012 10:34 pm ET

jglanzer – Julie Saw this over at 2peas, but I had to comment here, too. You did such a great job with this; the bneidlng is beautiful, as are the photos you used. It really has a nice effect!

grow your business   August 27th, 2012 12:00 pm ET

useful info. Thankyou for that. Its what I love about this resource, and why I keep coming back. Thanks again.

SarahAnn   February 12th, 2013 1:37 am ET

Hi, Neat post. There's a problem together with your site in web explorer, might test this. IE still is the market leader and a large element of other people will miss your wonderful writing due to this problem. SarahAnn

Niazmina   June 3rd, 2014 6:36 pm ET isn't an alternative....

4. User Content

You own your personal data, including your contacts and other information and content you post or share using the Site or Services ("User Content"). You give FamDing permission to reproduce and use your User Content as follows: you grant to FamDing and its Affiliates a license to reproduce, distribute, display, perform, and otherwise use your User Content solely in connection with providing the Site and Services. Our license to your User Content is non-exclusive, meaning you may use the User Content for your own purposes or let others use your User Content for their purposes. Our license to your User Content is fully-paid and royalty free, meaning we do not owe you anything else in connection with our use of your User Content. We may exercise our rights anywhere in the world. Finally, our license is perpetual, meaning that our license lasts for an indefinite period of time. In general, however, we will only need to use your User Content for as long as you choose to store it with us using the Site or Services.

You promise that:

you own all rights to your User Content or, alternatively, that you have the right to give FamDing the rights described above;
you have paid and will pay in full any fees or other payments that may be related to the use of your User Content; and
your User Content does not infringe the intellectual property rights, privacy rights, publicity rights, or other legal rights of any third party.

Leave Your Comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

subscribe RSS Icon
Powered by VIP