Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Deleting your Facebook Account requires some preparation, and then a fairly well hidden link. I'll outline the preparation and point you to the link.

What is the safest way to deactivate and completely eliminate my Facebook account?

A lot of people are concerned about Facebook' privacy policy changes, and as a result are seriously considering deleting their Facebook account.

I'll walk you through some simple steps to do it, but also point out a couple of issues that make it very easy for the deletion not to happen.

I have to start by quoting Chris Pirillo's two step plan for internet privacy:

"What's private today might not be private tomorrow."
  1. Don't share s**t you don't want the world to see

  2. Repeat step 1

While that's clearly Chris's attempt to shock you into paying attention to the issue, he has a point. If you don't want something to potentially become public, don't share it online. Period. It's very simple, and completely insulates you from the privacy policies of various organizations, as well as unexpected changes to those policies over time. What's private today might not be private tomorrow.

Deactivation

Note that "Deactivation" is not the same as "Deletion". Deactivation "turns off" your account, but does not remove your data. You can still be tagged in photos, and much of your information may still be visible, either publicly or to other Facebook members.

The idea behind deactivation is that someday you'll come back and want all your old stuff to be restored.

Naturally, deactivation is what Facebook typically points you at.

If you're serious and want a solution that says "I'm not coming back", you want to delete your Facebook account.

How To Delete Your Facebook Account

Start by deleting all the ties you've created to your Facebook account from outside of Facebook.

If you've allowed other sites to use Facebook Connect to log you in, that has to be disabled - a single login to one of those account may disable your eventual account deletion. Go to those sites and change how you login before you try to delete your Facebook account.

Are you using a Facebook application on your mobile phone? Delete it first, from all your devices.

Using a Facebook add-in in an instant messaging program? Remove it first, from all your computers.

As we'll see in a moment, any of those outside connections to Facebook could cause your account deletion to be canceled.

Deleting Your Account

Go to this link:

http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account

Follow the instructions there.

DON'T LOGIN TO YOUR ACCOUNT FOR AT LEAST TWO WEEKS. I'd wait longer. I can't stress the importance of this enough. If you login within two weeks you will cancel the account deletion. If any of those external Facebook applications logs in again, I believe you also risk cancelling your account deletion.

After 14 days the deletion is permanent. If you change your mind and want a Facebook account again you'll need to create a new one.

What am I doing?

I'm keeping my Facebook account.

But then, I also don't share ... uh ... "stuff" ... that I don't want the world to see. Even if I post something "privately" today, I'm very aware that particularly on Facebook this privacy could be an illusion. Someday it's very possible that they could change their terms of service again to make my formerly private information public.

Is that evil? Absolutely. And clearly Facebook has a reputation for doing exactly that.

But I don't control Facebook. The only control I have is over what I do and what I choose to share. That means that right or wrong the only way to protect myself, and my privacy, is to not share stuff I don't want the world to see.

Assume anything you post on Facebook - even the "private" stuff - will someday be public, and act accordingly.

And for some, "act accordingly" may mean leaving Facebook.

While I personally don't see the need and would simply counsel being aware of and restricting what you post, I can certainly understand if deleting your Facebook account is the solution you choose.

Article C4322 - May 23, 2010 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

30 Comments
Mark
May 23, 2010 3:43 PM

Chris Pirillo hit the nail on the head. Blaming Facebook for violating your privacy is like spray painting personal stuff on a wall and blaming the wall for betraying your privacy. Facebook doesn't betray your privacy, YOU betray your own privacy by posting on Facebook.

Jenn
May 24, 2010 1:11 AM

Yes, but most people are not wise enough to see this logic (for being responsible.) I apply this logic not only to my Facebook activities but everything of my utterance, digital or otherwise and beyond.

Ken
May 25, 2010 8:54 AM

I had deactivated my account but followed your link only to find a request to log in and then find that my account had been reactivated! There does not seem to be any way to delete it. I have no other connections to Facebook by the way,

jack
May 25, 2010 8:54 AM

I tried using the link to delete facebook. My account had alrady been deactivated for over a month. This link required I log back in and logging in simply reactivated my account! I still have no idea how to delete my account. "Go to this link" and "follow the instructions there" aren't really helpful at all.

Bruce
May 25, 2010 9:20 AM

The difference between deactivation and deletion seems to be lost on some. The instructions that Leo provided may reactivate a deactivated account for two weeks but after that, the account will be gone and cannot be reactivated again. There seems to be no way around the 2 week period but at least the account will be gone for good after that.

Bruce
May 25, 2010 9:26 AM

IT WORKS! And, your account will be deactivated for the 2 week waiting period. Here's the email I received from FB after using the link Leo provided:

"We have received a request to permanently delete your account. Your account has been deactivated from the site and will be permanently deleted within 14 days."

Karl
May 25, 2010 12:35 PM

This does work to delete your Facebook account. The reason i know is, i had two Facebook accounts, I deleted one of them because i did not use it that much. All info is gone it did take 14 or so days to be deleted.

If you search through Facebooks help or faq you will find the info on how to delete your account.

Tom R.
May 25, 2010 12:37 PM

My advice is never open a Facebook account. I didn't and I haven't spent one second of my life regretting it.

Jon
May 25, 2010 12:51 PM

For anyone "seriously considering deleting" but not yet there, it pays to also consider that, at it's root, FB is a money making proposition first and foremost, not a social sevice. This became clearer to me when I recently declined Facebook's demand that I link my FB Profile Info to "Pages that reflect your interests." The result of my refusal was that FB "wiped out" most of my information because I wouldn't link it. Links are the money making medium for FB. So, to Facebook, I say "knock yourself out," but don't expect to use my personal info to make you money. And especially, DON'T FORCE ME THERE. I'll vote with my feet. Thank you very much Leo for the guidance. I'm outa there.

Moshe Natan
May 25, 2010 2:25 PM

If a friend who uses my pc logs into his account am I in danger?

Depends on your friend, his intentions and his technical expertise. Could be yes, could be no.
Leo
26-May-2010

Ariel
May 25, 2010 8:04 PM

If the King(owner) of FB, is not keeping his word now, then should we not expect the he might go even further in the future? The nature of man throughout history, I'm sorry, doesn't change much unless a bolt of lightning hit's him and a voice from heaven calls down to him repent.==How often does that happen?==

So if he (the guru of FB) is reportedly not keeping his word to former buisness partners- (many of which are taking him to court or have already), and violated the trust of FB users for the sake of riches, shall we not deem FB a high security risk?

Can he not, let us say, sell us off to maliscious tricksters That are capable of untold horrors?

I'm speaking of us, the less savy users and more vulnerable security minded. I do not as yet have the apptitude and time to read and implement all of the great advice in your column. Yes I can Read lol but have'nt the skill and time yet to secure my computer. and impliment all the safety measures. I believe this is the same case for many of your sheep.

I Love your columns and hold yet the Idea that you are not coruptable, and would not be afraid of rocking the boat so to speak, if neccessary, by speaking out more firmly against this moral issue. Is there not more chance of risk then you hint too?

You claim that it is the nature of us who make us unsecure. I do agree. But have we all evolved already from stupidity? Becuase I did'nt get my diploma yet. So should not an upright teacher as yourself just steer all of us to safer waters? Or am I speaking out of place?

My concern is; if an enemy is amongst us should your advice be more of a safer route steering us clear away?

Yes you gave us great instruction but yet some of us have yet still for it to become part of our routine. I would dare to say that for the sake of your newer students and more vulnerable readers you would mention at least a few of the problematic senarios that a person like the proprieter of FB could enginear up for us.

Conjecture can be enlightining, fun and interesting. So could you play out some senarios for us, that are possible for the scrupolous who hold that kind of possition of power and resources?

My question is as follows: Is the possibilities of foul play by FB, limited to just what we have seen and heard already?

I heard that Facebook accounts were on the market for sale bundled up per 1000 acoounts at a time. Who and what could get a hold of these, and what evil could befall us?

Would it not be better that you say I'm keeping "my facebook account" but I am of course armored and weaponed up and a highly trained Jedi.

Thank you again for your love Leo.

Hey everyone we must donate also to the teacher lest he fall to comprimization. I made up that last word. I think.

Heck I wanted to put in emoticons but thats how un-savy I am still. Wait I just got it. (=>

Yours truly
Paranoyia inc.

wayne
May 25, 2010 8:19 PM

As a subscriber of this forum, I've found much usefull info. As a facebook subscriber of several years who has become increasingly dis-heartened by it's 'evolution' I was kind of excited to see the link for deletion. Unfortunately, all it did was sign me in & re-activate me. Looked hi & low, can't find deletion instructions.. I just can't 'get out' have been trying for quite a while.. Thanks for listening!

Alex
May 25, 2010 9:52 PM

Personally in the digital age... with so many sites like Facebook and robots scouting around ferreting out the places you go and what you see and do I feel that Privacy on the Internet is impossible. Impossible -that is- IF you use REAL information. I don't have anything to hide BUT I am a very private person and do NOT like my personal information shared. Since I know at some point SOMEONE will use Spokeo, or some other info gathering tool I am careful. I also religiously take the following steps:
- I have a "throw away" e-mail acct for online signups with vendors i do NOT know enough about or trust yet.
- I do not post my full name WITH my address or phone on ANY form in a public place without using SSL technology. (secure socket layers) look for the Https://
- If possible I use a VPN (virtual private network) tunnel which hides my IP in public wifi's
- I encrypt any info that is sensitive on my computers (bank info password lists etc.)
- ( I also always back EVERYTHING up. multiple times on multiple types of media - esp. music
(the music is worth many times my computers!!)
- and last but NOT least - when i close an account i FIRST use MIS-Info!
(misinformation).
If you are going to DELETE an FB profile...and you FEAR (like I sometimes wonder) that somehow that information MIGHT still be out there hanging around someday and you don't WANT it to be there? Why not FIRST update it with the WRONG information... -leave it for a couple weeks and THEN delete it!! This way, Even if the info is ressurected somehow (say by an angry boyfriend looking to come back and find you) it will be the wrong home address and phone number.
- OH and by the way... just in case you THOUGHT everything was deleted... there is something called a WAYBACK machine. I have found domain pictures and information including phone numbers for domains I had back in 1994!!
IT's a robotic web archival service!
It takes PICTURES of websites - even personal ones! and KEEPS them forever!
Its a good idea since it keeps government sites honest etc. but Whoa! things you didn't know...

Ken
May 26, 2010 12:57 AM

To follow up my previous comment. I went back into Facebook - which meant reactivating my account - then logged out before following Leo's link. This now took me to the deletion page and I have successfully deleted my account - provided I do not log in again for 2 weeks! Thanks Leo.

Paul Orrett
May 27, 2010 5:58 AM

all very wise, and like one poster the solution is not to sign up in the first place. But what about the arch privacy thief, Google, forced to reduce the time they hold data from 23 years following massive legal challenge by the EU. Leo, you have a Google custom search at the top of your page.

Kathy
May 27, 2010 10:36 AM

Thanks for the info regarding CLOSING the Facebook account. I hate that social site, & didn't have my account for very long after hearing many horror stories. I have since forwarded the link to a friend who also wants to CLOSE and not just deactivate the account!

John
May 28, 2010 3:21 AM

I have seen a tv show on this very subject on abc tv in australia there is a video link here.its a real eye opener.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2010/05/26/2909495.htm

Beverely Ehrich
June 14, 2010 10:25 AM

I can't delete the facebook account, have tried all ways please help me

Peach
June 3, 2011 8:34 AM

HELLO, YOUR PAGE IS HELPFUL. ALTHOUGH I CANNOTFIND THE ANSWER THAT I AM LOOKING FOR ANYWHERE! SOMEONE HACKED MY FACEBOOK ACCOUNT CHANGED MY PASSWORD AND CHANGED MY PASSWORD AND SECURITY QUESTION ON MY EMAIL THAT IS LINKED TO TMY FACEBOOK. I UNDERSTAND I CANNOT EVER GET BACK INTO MY EMAIL, WHICH IS WHATEVER. BUT I WANT TO PERMANTLY DELETE MY FACEBOOK ACCOUNT SO THAT I CAN START A NEW ONE SO I DONT HAVE 2 FACEBOOK ACCOUNTS UNDER MY NAME! PLEASE HELP!!!

Mark J
June 3, 2011 9:36 AM

@Peach
This article explains how to recover a hacked Facebook account. You should be able to change the password if you have access to the original email address you used to set up the account, unless that was also hacked. If that was also hacked, I would suspect it was someone who you know that hacked the accounts.
http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_recover_my_facebook_log_in_password.html

John
December 22, 2011 9:26 AM

Reading articles such as yours has really opened my eyes! I was once (foolishly) very active on the internet and have started limiting what is readily available to others. I left a number of groups on Facebook a while ago, not realizing that my posts would remain.
If I delete my account, will that also delete my posts on group walls? Furthermore, will it completely remove my information from Facebook's servers? If not, what is the easiest way to go about doing these things?

I believe the comments you make elsewhere all disappear, but as to whether your information disappears completely from Facebook's servers I have no idea. I would guess not, at least not for a long while, and I have no idea how to make it happen.
Leo
21-Dec-2011
justin
December 29, 2011 12:37 PM

thank you for this!

Alex Dow
January 13, 2012 9:00 AM

I occasionally wonder about such situations and similar such as when one is told that "all the information about you has been removed".

What about all the earlier Backups?

In my working career on computers, we backed up the computers at the end of each working day, on an incremental basis.

These tapes were re-used on the same day of the following week.

At the end of each month (apart grom the "Final Month" below", we did a Full Backup, the tapes being re-used in the same month of the following year.

At the end of the Final Month each year, we did a Full Backup.

In the 15 years of doing so, NONE of those YEARLY Backup Tapes were re-used, as some contracts required the data to be retained for 20 years from generally the agreed Delivery/Handover Date of the project.

Thus such information theoretically could be available for around 25 years after it had apparently been deleted from the "present-day" working files.

I don't know the situation with Facebook and similar operations - BUT it does make me wary of what I do post on the internet, on all types of system.

Regarding my local Hard Disks, I remove them from the PC being discarded, keeping those HDDs at home, as being relatively safer than any re-formatting.

GREG JACKSON
January 13, 2012 12:39 PM

An overall way to delete any account is to simply violate their rules. It's somewhat crude and crass, but it works. Community rules, TOC, minor copyright issues [and repeated many times], are good for quick results. This may require you to post real naughty photos, or use foul words. But I've seen it used several times, and works quickly and effectively. If you can live with short-term shame, you will be deleted. Bet on it.

Vicki
January 13, 2012 8:47 PM

I never thought you could delete your Facebook account until a friend told me how. Thanks, Leo, for sharing this info. It's been over 2 months now and I still get emails from FB reminding me that so & so wants to be a friend. They really hate it when you leave them and I hated the way they hid the info on how to delete an account vs deactivating it. AND, the reason I did delete my account was because they changed my privacy settings twice and that angered me beyond belief. Plus, I hear they are using "face recognition" software and although I have nothing to hide, I think that is beyond intrusive. I don't trust that site for anything.

Gigi Duru
January 21, 2012 1:21 AM

To all of you reading this article: please remember, deleting your account only removes public access to it, all the data remains on their servers for at least 2 years and can be accessed by everybody with which FB has an contract for data sharing, and the government. And by data i mean absolutely everything you have put or done in your account. Nothing is actually deleted.

Glenn P.
February 12, 2012 9:22 AM

This is for Gigi Duru and for Alex Dow:

Granting all (or most) of what you say --

1. Not being a user of Facebook, I don't know what's in their User Agreement. However, unless it clearly says otherwise, deleting your account would certainly, by implication, revoke any consent to "share" the deleted information with anybody. Never mind "anybody with which FB has a contract for data sharing" -- unless that User Agreement clearly spells out that deleted user accounts are fair game, I can't see how they can legitimately share that data without your consent. Any consent you had previously given was revoked when you deleted the account, unless your User Agreement says otherwise (a good reason, by the bye, to read your User Agreement)!

2. a. Yes, the Government "can". b. However, they need a Warrant, which means they also need a good reason. c. This in turn means that unless you're doing something really, REALLY nasty, you're just Not That Interesting. After all, there are THOUSANDS of people on Facebook! (Tens of thousands? Hundreds  of thousands? Millions?  Anyway, Far Too Many for the Government bother with Lil' Ol' You.)

Ameer khan
February 14, 2012 2:19 AM

How do I delete my Facebook Account

But my password not remembered

connie
February 14, 2012 6:15 AM

@Ameer
You will first need to recover the Facebook password. More in this article: How do I recover my Facebook password?

Bonita
September 2, 2012 12:08 AM

Although not a heavy user of Facebook, I have recently posted some political comments. Googling my name in quotation marks brought up the first few lines of these remarks, even though clicking the link did not show them, I assume due to privacy options previously selected. They have asked me for further personal information which I am not going to supply to them, so I am unable to use my account anymore. Oh well!

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.