Headlines during the past few weeks have been ablaze with how Cambridge Analytica misused data mined from 87 million users via a Facebook app, creating major, new concern about personal privacy. While many people knew companies were able to mine some general data about you (how else could they target their ads?), it turns out they know a lot more. Facebook’s Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has publicly stated that the company will be making changes to better protect user privacy. But observers are skeptical – in large part because Facebook’s business model depends on ad-targeting, which relies on personal user data.
If you want to know how to delete your Facebook account – or are considering taking a break until you are satisfied the company has addressed users’ privacy concerns – there are a few things you’re probably considering.
What information has Facebook collected about you?
Facebook has a tool that allows you to download a ZIP file that includes all of the personal data the platform has collected from your account. Looking at a preview of that archive can be surprising because while it includes things you might expect – like your About Me description (work, relationship status, education, where you live, etc.) – it digs far deeper too.
In fact, the zipped archive reveals that Facebook records any metadata that was attached to the photos you uploaded, as well as the ads you clicked and their topics, the apps you have added, a history of your chat conversations, your IP addresses, and unique facial recognition data that helps others identify you.
The more information they have, the more value you bring
Sure, Facebook changed the rules in 2015 about what information a third-party can collect, limiting useful data like the information collected from a “friend’s” account. That could be considered a start, except that third-party organizations don’t need a lot of detail to start targeting and mining more. Your name, hometown, and gender offer enough details to point them to other available marketing databases and build a fuller profile of you. The more complete a profile they have, the more targeted ads can be – getting you to act. That makes you an incredibly valuable asset.
Are you really done with Facebook?
If you’re worried about actually holding on to all of your memories, you’re probably conflicted about deleting your Facebook account. After all, there’s no reason for you to lose them just because some third-party sites have them, too. The good news is you have options.
First, you can simply deactivate your account, which essentially suspends your profile. No one can find your profile and they cannot send you messages, but you can log back in to reactivate your account later. Keep in mind, though, that this doesn’t solve the data privacy issue since Facebook still has access to all the information attached to your account.
A more complete approach is to delete your account. To back up your photos and memories, you have two choices.
Archiving Facebook accounts
As we said, Facebook has a way to download EVERYTHING as a ZIP file. They’ve got a few security questions you’ll have to answer first (apparently now is the time they worry about who can access your files) but once you’ve passed the check, you can grab the ZIP file. It takes three steps:
- Click the “down arrow” at the top right of any Facebook page and select Settings
- Below the General Account Settings section, select Download a copy of your Facebook data
- Click Start My Archive
Of course, there are some more details you may want to consider, and Wired has a full exploration of the how to download your archive and access your files.
Back up before you delete Facebook
Grabbing a ZIP file of your data from Facebook is thorough, but it’s cumbersome to navigate and, once you delete your account, it’s unclear that you can automatically reload the information to a new profile if you decide to return to Facebook later.
With a subscription to Acronis True Image 2018, you can create a backup of your Facebook profile. That means you can go directly into your backup to retrieve an old photo or contact, without having to navigate the index tool Facebook’s ZIP file uses. Plus, if you later decide that Facebook has taken sufficient steps to protect your information, you can quickly restore your backup to a new profile – placing all of your photos, albums, account information, recent messages, etc. in the new account.
And if you are evaluating all of your social media accounts, it’s good to know that Acronis True Image 2018 also provides social media backup for Instagram, so all of your photos and contacts on that platform can be preserved the same way.
Deleting your Facebook account
If you still want to delete your Facebook account once you’ve backed up your data, it’s as simple as one click. You just need to go to Delete My Account and all of your data will be wiped from the platform.
“Pulling the plug” on your Facebook account can be a relief. Given how ingrained social media has become in our society, it can also be daunting, too. Having a way to restart after the dust settles offers an essential safety blanket in uncertain times.