Although you may have thought posting those pictures on Facebook was a good idea in college — or perhaps it wasn’t even you who posted them but a picture-zealous friend — you’ve decided to delete selected images in the hopes that friends, family and employers won’t have any embarrassing photo evidence against you.
Even though your mass deletion happened a few years ago, Ars Technica reports these photos could still exist. Apparently, it takes some time for Facebook to delete deleted photos from its own server. On Friday, Facebook told Ars Technica that it is working on a newer system that will delete deleted photos faster but the older, current system may not have deleted photos immediately as users thought it would.
Ars Technica found this out for the first time in 2009 when it showed that if you had a direct link to previously un-deleted photo, you could still access it. At the time, Facebook told them it was “working with our content delivery network (CDN) partner to significantly reduce the amount of time that backup copies persist.”
Three years after pointing out this flaw to Facebook, Ars Technica hasn’t seen much of an improvement on the system:
After confirming once again that all the photos that my friends and Ars readers had sent in were still online, I reached out to Facebook once again, looking for an answer as to why this is still going on nearly three years after the company first promised it was “working” on the issue.
“The systems we used for photo storage a few years ago did not always 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.
Wolens explained that photos remaining online are stuck in a legacy system that was apparently never operating properly, but said the company is working on a new system that will delete the photos in a mere month and a half. For really real this time.
“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 complete 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.”
In short, instead of waiting years for your photo to be officially deleted with the soon-to-be-updated system, it will only exist in cyber space for an excess of 45 days.