Deleted Facebook Photos Still Circulating Online, After Three Years

February 8, 2012 0

Los Angeles — There are all sorts of reasons for wanting to remove a picture from Facebook. Perhaps your past follows you like your shadow, but unfortunately, photos deleted from social media network Facebook are still circulating on the social network’s servers for nearly three years, according to an investigation by Ars Technica.

Perhaps you do not have permission to post that snap of a friend in a compromising position on the social media network and you sincerely deleted it. The folks at Ars Technica, writer Jacqui Cheng who discovered this flaw back in 2009, recently found that those Facebook photos you thought you had wiped from the face of the Internet were still there:

In fact, users who might have had their mind changed about posting a photo could certainly remove the image from Facebook’s main user interface, but as long as someone had a direct link to the .jpg file in question, the photo would remain accessible for an indefinite amount of time. When we asked Facebook about it, we were told that the company was “working with our content delivery network (CDN) partner to significantly reduce the amount of time that backup copies persist…”

Surprisingly enough, responding to a query by Ars Technica, Facebook came forward last week, confirming that your old “deleted” pictures and other content are still accessible online; they say the content “did not always delete images from content delivery networks in a reasonable period of time even though they were immediately removed from the site”. As a result, photos deleted months or years ago may still be accessible.

The company’s reported response was:

“The systems we employed for photo storage a few years back did not always completely delete images from content delivery networks in a reasonable period of time even though they were immediately removed from the site,” Facebook spokesperson Frederic Wolens told Ars via e-mail…

That embarrassing Facebook photo you deleted may still be lingering around. (Credit: Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET)

The problem with this flaw is not just that the direct links stay alive, but they are also public. Direct-linking to a Facebook image allows anyone–irrespective of how private your profile is–to see that picture.

However, the social media giant insisted that it has almost finished with a new system that promises to speed up the process. “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 said. “This process is nearly finalized 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.”

Nevertheless, given the duration of time that the problem has persisted, Ars Technica remained skeptical about social media giant Facebook’s ability to rectify it soon.