updated 05:00 am EST, Mon February 6, 2012
Facebook still grappling with user privacy
Facebook has said that it is getting nearer to releasing a newer system that will help to ensure that once a user deletes a photo, it is also deleted from its servers. Although the issue was first raised three years ago, Facebook user photos remain accessible, even after they have been deleted from a user’s profile, by way of the original URL. The company told Ars Technica last week that its older servers still "did not always delete images from content delivery networks in a reasonable period of time even though they were immediately removed from the site."
The problem for some early adopters was that Facebook’s rapid rise in popularity did not coincide with user awareness of the danger of posting embarrassing or compromising images of themselves on their profiles. Stories soon emerged of users having their profiles examined by employers, or prospective employers, only to lose their jobs, fall out of the running for promotions or new positions. However, it also became apparent that deleting a photo from a profile did not permanently delete the photo from the Internet.
According to a Facebook spokesperson, Frederic Wolens, it may be on the verge of finally deploying a more permanent fix. "We have been working hard to move our photo storage to newer systems which do ensure photos are fully deleted within 45 days of the removal request being received," Wolens told Ars Technica. "This process is nearly complete and there is only a very small percentage of user photos still on the old system awaiting migration, the URL you provided was stored on this legacy system. We expect this process to be completed within the next month or two, at which point we will verify the migration is complete and we will disable all the old content."
Negative publicity about privacy issues have plagued Facebook for years. Along with the issue of user photos failing to be properly deleted, the company has repeatedly faced accusations that it has deliberately altered user privacy settings, often making the default option reveal more personal information than a user would otherwise choose to make public. As Facebook prepares to go public, it is keen to ensure that it avoids any further negative publicity surrounding user privacy and has made organisational changes to better address the issues moving forward.