Last night an audience member at my Cyber Safety talk was concerned with how she might permanently delete her Facebook Account. I advised her that there is a method but you have to submit a special form to Facebook to do it. “Deactivating” your account only puts it in suspension and can be reactivated at any time, even years later by simply logging in again.
The ability to delete your account is not readily available through the normal settings on your account you have to go to a specific URL to do so.
A note about deletion: From Facebook’s Data Use Policy
When you delete an account, it is permanently deleted from Facebook. It typically takes about one month to delete an account, but some information may remain in backup copies and logs for up to 90 days. You should only delete your account if you are sure you never want to reactivate it. You can delete your account at:https://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account
Learn more at: https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=356107851084108
Certain information is needed to provide you with services, so we only delete this information after you delete your account. Some of the things you do on Facebook aren’t stored in your account, like posting to a group or sending someone a message (where your friend may still have a message you sent, even after you delete your account). That information remains after you delete your account.”
Conclusion: Some of your posts messages and interactions on Facebook will still be retained by Facebook.
If you simply want to suspend or deactivate your account you can go to your Privacy Settings/Security and scroll down to the bottom of the security page to “Deactivate your account” and follow the prompts. This won’t delete your account but just hides the timeline from other users.
Before you delete your account
Be sure to download your Facebook data beforehand if you wish to retain your posts, photos etc.
You should then delete as much of your data as possible by going through your activity Log and deleting each entry step by step. There is no shortcuts to doing this, and it depends on how much you have in the activity log as to how long this will take. But it will mean that there will be less information about you on Facebook overall. Delete all your photos, defriend, unlike all pages, leave groups, and make sure that you shut any pages down that you own.
This doesn’t mean there will be no trace of you on Facebook. Facebook may have what is being known as a “shadow” account for you. Where a friend has used the find friend feature in Facebook where Facebook uploads their entire address book into Facebook to use the data to find matches already on Facebook. Any phone numbers and email address that are uploaded this way are retained by Facebook. You may in fact get invites to join Facebook purely because a friend uploaded your email address and phone number whilst looking for friends they know on Facebook.
To start the process of permanently deleting your account: Go to this address or search for “Delete my Facebook account” in Facebook Help Search
You should have 14 days to reactivate your account if you change your mind. After that time your account will be unavailable for reactivation, to use Facebook you would have to start a whole new account.