I really am not THAT guy. The guy that is paranoid about the social media big brother. I am not someone that sees demons under every rock. Nor do I really care a whole lot about you knowing where I am every moment of the day. If you care enough to track me every moment of every day- good on ya! Look at me! I have a fan! Even if that fan happens to be the NSA. Haha. Maybe someday I’ll tell you about the time Homeland Security and ICE asked me to build them Honeypot websites for catching spies trying to purchase highly secure hardware that wasn’t allowed to leave the country – but that is another story for another day – and highly off topic.
Regardless, I did learn something I found startling this past week about Facebook and what they do with your deleted data. Or not to put too fine a point on it – what they DON’T do with your deleted data.
But before I get to that, I need to tell you a story. And all good stories have to begin at the beginning. And afterwards, you will understand exactly how I came to learn this strange fact about Facebook.
When Facebook was only out at the college level and no one else could get into it, I desperately wanted in. I even went so far as to try and resurrect my old college email in order to get in. When I was finally in, I was in Nirvana. I frolicked and danced like a leprechaun. Everything about Facebook was perfect. The wall, the sharing, the epiphany that I could find anyone on the planet that I used to know. I connected with old friends. I reacquainted with their lives and learned about their children. It was quite extraordinary really.
The next phase of my love affair with Facebook was getting my wife involved. At that point it really got exciting. Occasionally we would even spend date night pair surfing on facebook. We would comment on other’s content, but it was always a side conversation pointed at each other. We would share profiles and details that struck our fancy and caused a memory to light. It was great.
And then it wasn’t. And so I left. I deleted my account completely and didn’t look back.
The details of why I left are kinda moot at this point that is so much water under the bridge I wouldn’t even know where to begin. So for the last 4? or so, I’ve been out of Facebook. And really, I haven’t looked back. Occasionally I see people who are spending tons of time browsing the face and I just sort of feel bad for them. But hey, we all find meaning and purpose in different ways. But that is neither here nor there at this point.
But I’m a Web Product Manager. That is my official title. Actually I’m the Senior Web Product Manager for Compassion International. So I handle all the technical know how behind all the internet related efforts for this near billion dollar a year organization. And it really doesn’t make sense for someone with my job to not be on Facebook. You know? At least to understand what is happening a little bit out there, right? So about a year and a half ago I created a new login just with the intent of occasionally seeing what Big Brother is up to. But when I signed up I gave 100% bogus data. I only entered the very minimal required information. And – here’s the key – I connected that account to a new email address I was using for an internet start up project I was working on. Right? Good.
And then I friended only ONE PERSON. (If you are curious who I friended, it was my wife. I know, sweet, huh?) Anyway.
So I was actually able to test things and learn things that normal users couldn’t see or understand with this sort of a setup. For example… I saw that only a percentage of my wife’s posts and comments came through to my wall. I also noticed that that percentage depended on how she posted her updates. If it was sent from a third party app like Instagram, the odds were much lower that I would be receiving that post on my wall. If it was direct, the odds were higher. This selectivity has been widely documented now, but at the time I hadn’t heard of this – so it was a fascinating thing to observe.
I also got friend recommendations in a peculiar way. Seeing as though Facebook knew NOTHING about me… not my birth location, or my current location, it didn’t know where I went to high school… NOTHING I got friend requests 100% from my wife. It recommended all her friends over and over and over again. But no one else. I mean, right?, it knows nothing else. So – shoot – let’s try throwing this against the wall and seeing if it sticks. Right?
But then that all changed.
About a month ago, on like my second login of the year, I noticed that I was getting friend requests in a whole new way. Not only that, but that these recommendations were startlingly accurate. Like spot on. Every single recommendation was exactly right. So I sat there and I thought… and I thought… and I thought and then I realized what I had done.
A week or two earlier I made a simple change. Because the internet startup I got involved with had recently blown up extravagantly I figured that that email address I had chosen when I created the account was probably bad now. So I decided I should change it. So I flipped it over to my standard email address.
Which was the same address I had used the last time I was on Facebook.
Let that little detail settle in for a second. If you aren’t the brightest bulb on the tree or the sharpest tool in the tool shed, what that basically means is this, when I deleted my account, Facebook just hid my account details from the community. Then, when I rekeyed in my old email address it finally knew something about me again. It knew my old contacts. All of them. I had almost 500 friends when I left Facebook years ago. And it knew to start recommending them right now, post haste. It also began prompting with things it couldn’t normally know about me in the profile creation step:
There are a couple things I want you to notice in this photo. The first is the profile name… Derek. Not me. Right? Not Taylor. Good. You got that bit. Now, please notice the first recommendation on that list for a job location. Compassion international. Which happens to be where I work. How could it possibly know that unless it remembered my previous employer that I had connected with my old account? It also my home town Colorado Springs and a few other things that proved that I was getting worked over by the Face.
So there you go, there is my story and my conclusive Proof Facebook Doesn’t Delete Your Deleted Account Data. I guarantee you, in no uncertain terms… that when you delete your account Facebook definitely does not delete your information. Not by a long shot. The next step is to try a test with Intellectual Property and content uploaded. Hrmmm…