I’ve been contemplating deleting my Facebook for years, but every time I’d come close to making the jump I’d come up with some excuse about why it would be impossible. I needed Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family while living out of the country. I needed it to stay in touch with friends who live abroad. I needed it to stay on top of news. I needed it for my job. I needed it to validate my existence with a constant stream of engagement.
This resulted in a long on-and-off relationship with the platform, in which I would deactivate my profile for weeks or months at a time, only to come crawling back. Recently, however, it occurred to me that I hadn’t used or even thought about Facebook in over six months. Then the Cambridge Analytica story broke, which revealed just how easily Facebook’s massive collection of user data could be mishandled. It seemed like as good a time as any to finally pull the plug and permanently delete my Facebook profile.
Although there’s a strong argument to be made for Facebook reform over abolition, there’s no reason you can’t delete your own Facebook while helping improve the platform for those who depend on it.
Facebook makes deactivating your profile as easy as clicking a few buttons, but permanently deleting it can be a bit of a pain in the ass if you don’t know what you’re doing. So here’s a step-by-step guide to leaving Facebook for good:
DEACTIVATE OR DELETE?
First, you need to decide whether you want to deactivate or delete your account.
Deactivating basically just logs you out and makes your profile invisible to all your friends until you log back in. Your friends will still be able to see all the old messages you’ve sent them, but they aren’t able to message you unless you’ve opted to keep Facebook’s messenger app running on your phone. To reactivate your account, all you need to do is log back in to Facebook, and everything will be just as you left it.
Deleting your account, on the other hand, will make your profile inaccessible forever. Your friends will still be able to see messages you’ve sent them and posts to groups will remain, but all your comments, status updates, photos and everything else stored in your account will be permanently scrubbed from Facebook’s servers within 90 days of pulling the plug.
It’s important to note, however, that deleting your Facebook doesn’t delete your data from any third-party services you may have connected to using your Facebook profile. This means you’ll have to basically reach out to each third-party service individually and ask them to delete your data, which they don’t have to do since you agreed to provide it to them in your terms of service. It may also mean losing access to apps that you’ve signed up for with Facebook, such as Tinder. Although you can create a new Tinder profile without Facebook, you will no longer have access to your old profile.
PICKING UP THE SCRAPS
If you’re anything like me, a decent portion of the last decade or so of your life is probably stashed in your Facebook profile. Even if you’re ready to jump ship, you probably don’t want to leave all those photos behind or have no way to contact your friends and/or that one person you met that one time at that one place.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there that allow you to scrape all the photos from your Facebook albums. I used a Chrome extension called ‘DownAlbum,’ which makes it trivially easy to download photos and videos to your hard drive once you’ve figured out the user interface. The plugin downloads your Facebook albums as webpages and saves them to your local drive so you can still access them after deleting your profile.
Next it’s time to let all your friends know that you’re leaving the platform. This sounds like more of a pain than it is. Odds are you don’t even talk to most of your ‘friends’ on Facebook, so this might involve sending a few direct messages to the people you want to stay in touch with, but haven’t exchanged phone numbers or email addresses with. Another option is to post a status update and ask people to send you their contact info.
If you absolutely insist on personally sending your contact information to all 5,420 of your Facebook friends, this isn’t too hard to do. Facebook doesn’t make it easy to send a mass message to all your contacts to prevent spamming, but there’s a simple workaround. Just open a new message, type ‘a’ then enter and keep doing that. Once you’ve run out of friends with an ‘a’ in their name, do the same with ‘e’ and the rest of the vowels and you’ll have created a message addressed to every one of your friends.
You'll find your 'Group' posts on the left hand side bar under 'Activity Log'. Image: Daniel Oberhaus
Now it’s time to scrub the Facebook posts that won’t be deleted when you axe your profile. This includes all the posts that aren’t stored in your profile, such as posts to Facebook groups. Facebook keeps a record of all your posts, which you can view by selecting ‘Activity Log’ from the drop-down menu in the upper right corner of your homepage. To see only your group posts, select ‘Group’ from the bar on the left.
Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t offer an easy way to delete posts from your activity log in bulk, which leaves you with two less-than-stellar options. You can go through your group posts and delete them one by one. If you weren’t posting much in your groups, or only want to delete selective posts, this option will be fine. But if you were the top commenter in your favorite Furry groups and want these posts to disappear, you’re going to have a harder time.
Facebook will email you a copy of your entire activity log if you want it. Image: Daniel Oberhaus/Motherboard
There are specialized scripts that will automatically go through and delete your activity log for you. I tried out Absterge, which works with GreaseMonkey (a Mozilla extension that allows users to customize websites with small scripts), but found it to be pretty slow. It also crashed frequently, meaning I had to actively monitor the script to make sure it was still running. If there’s a better option, however, I have yet to find it.
Lastly, if you want a copy of all your Facebook data, you can go to your settings and under ‘General’ you will find a link that will download a copy of your data. This includes posts you’ve shared, messages with friends, and any information you’ve posted to the ‘About’ section on your profile—it’s basically an archive of your entire activity log. It can take a while for Facebook to compile all this information, so make sure you’ve set aside some time, or don’t plan on using Facebook while it compiles the report.
LOG OUT, FOREVER
Once you’ve saved your photos and bid adieu to your friends, it’s time to log out forever. This is easy enough to do. Just navigate to
and click ‘Delete My Account.’ Be warned: Once you click that button, you will have 14 days to log back in and change your mind. After that, there will be no way to access your account ever again, for better or worse. Once you’ve clicked, however, rest easy knowing that the majority of your digital fingerprint has been erased from Facebook. The only signs that you were ever there will be data that isn’t stored in your account, such as messages to your friends.
Now that you’re officially Facebook-free, it’s up to you how you’re going to use that freedom. Maybe you’ll read a book or donate your time to fighting censorship online. Maybe you’ll actually visit the websites of the news organizations you love, to help keep them in business. Maybe you’ll write your representatives and demand that they hold social media companies accountable for what happens on their platforms.
Or maybe you’ll just log in to any one of your myriad other social media profiles, and hardly notice the difference.
What will you do when you are told that your company pension is bust? Or that the pension you thought you were going to get has to be cut to a fraction of what you were promised?
Will you expect your political leaders to put people in prison? Will they? Or will they have an enquiry and then say ‘lessons have been learned’ and ‘new safeguards have been put in place’, and will they appoint a Pension Commissioner/Tsar who will draw a large salary and in return hold meetings with the heads of the pension industry and agree a code of conduct and draw up rules for ‘better’ self regulation?
What will you do when you are told that because of a decade and more of ultra-low interest rates, the insurance company that holds your private pension is in very deep trouble and just cannot pay?
What will you do if you are told that you will have to bailout various insurers in order to save the pension industry?
What will you do when you are told that the state pension can’t afford to pay retirements any more? What will you do if you are told that to expect a pension is a form of entitlement neither you nor your children any longer have a right to?
(Why Uber? Well, Uber is a taxi firm. Lots of urban and suburban short journeys through neighbourhoods where fares cluster. In contrast, once you set aside the hype, Tesla's autopilot is mostly an enhanced version of the existing enhanced cruise control systems that Volvo, BMW, and Mercedes have been playing with for years: lane tracking on highways, adaptive cruise control ... in other words, features used on longer, faster journeys, which are typically driven on roads such as motorways that don't have mixed traffic types.)
There's going to be a legal case, of course, and the insurance corporations will be taking a keen interest because it'll set a precedent and case law is big in the US. Who's at fault: the pedestrian, the supervising human driver behind the steering wheel who didn't stop the car in time, or the software developers? (I will just quote from CNN Tech here: "the car was going approximately 40 mph in a 35 mph zone, according to Tempe Police Detective Lily Duran.")
This case, while tragic, isn't really that interesting. I mean, it's Uber, for Cthulhu's sake (corporate motto: "move fast and break things"). That's going to go down real good in front of a jury. Moreover ... the maximum penalty for vehicular homicide in Arizona is a mere three years in jail, which would be laughable if it wasn't so enraging. (Rob a bank and shoot a guard: get the death penalty. Run the guard over while they're off-shift: max three years.) However, because the culprit in this case is a corporation, the worst outcome they will experience is a fine. The soi-disant "engineers" responsible for the autopilot software experience no direct consequences of moral hazard.
But there are ramifications.
A child below the age of criminal responsibility plays chicken with a self-driving taxi, is struck, and is injured or killed. Within the jurisdiction of the accident (see below) pedestrians have absolute priority (there is no offense of jaywalking), but it is an offense to obstruct traffic deliberately.
The taxi is owned by a holding company. The right to operate the vehicle, and the taxi license (or medalion, in US usage) are leased by the driver.
The driver is doing badly (predatory pricing competition by the likes of Uber is to blame for this) and is unable to pay for certain advanced features, such as a "gold package" that improves the accuracy of pedestrian/obstacle detection from 90% to 99.9%. Two months ago, because they'd never hit anyone, the driver downgraded from the "gold package" to a less-effective "silver package".
The manufacturer of the vehicle, who has a contract with the holding company for ongoing maintenance, disabled the enhanced pedestrian avoidance feature for which the driver was no longer paying.
The road the child was playing chicken on is a pedestrian route closed to private cars and goods traffic but open to public transport.
In this jurisdiction, private hire cars are classified as private vehicles, but licensed taxis are legally classified as public transport when (and only for the duration) they are collecting or delivering a passenger within the pedestrian area.
At the moment of the impact the taxi has no passenger, but has received a pickup request from a passenger inside the pedestrian zone (beyond the accident location) and is proceeding to that location on autopilot control.
The driver is not physically present in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
The driver is monitoring their vehicle remotely from their phone, using a dash cam and an app provided by the vehicle manufacturer but subject to an EULA that disclaims responsibility and commits the driver to binding arbitration administered by a private tribunal based in Pyongyang acting in accordance with the legal code of the Republic of South Sudan.
Immediately before the accident the dash cam view was obscured by a pop-up message from the taxi despatch app that the driver uses, notifying them of the passenger pickup request. The despatch app is written and supported by a Belgian company and is subject to an EULA that disclaims responsibility and doesn't impose private arbitration but requires any claims to be heard in a Belgian court.
The accident took place in Berwick-upon-Tweed, England; the Taxi despatch firm is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Stross on the future of self-driving cars and crushed pedestrians:
"Indeed, the cars will probably sue any puny meatsack who has the temerity to vandalize their paint job with a gout of arterial blood, or traumatize their customers by screaming and crunching under their wheels."
Surely marketing would deem that off-brand? More likely is an ignition license requiring secret arbitration to settle the company's totally legit blood-gout complaint.