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Better Late Than Never': Facebook Will Finally Delete Embarrassing Photos Completely


In February, TheBlaze reported on an investigation into Facebook's policy that found photos you may have deleted could still exist on the social media site's servers. At the time, Facebook said it was improving its photo deletion system to speed up the process, but it had known about the issue for at least three years prior.

Now, Ars Technica, the tech site that first alerted the world the problem in 2009, is happy to report Facebook is finally deleting the photos you want gone -- for real this time.

Three years ago, Ars Technica's Jacqui Cheng found if one had a direct link to the photo that was supposed to have been deleted, it in fact remained. The find stemmed from a project in which Cheng wanted to see how long it took "drunken-escapades-slash-cat-photos to disappeared from the Internet" after they were deleted by the owner. Unlike other social media sites -- like Twitter and Flickr that Cheng found were quick to remove photos -- Cheng's photos and that of other users she found took more than a year for the direct link to disappear, if at all.

Cheng notes that Facebook said cases of this were "rare" -- something she writes having "piles of Ars reader mail to the contrary" -- but in February the company admitted to the Cheng the flaw in the system to "delete images from content delivery networks in a reasonable period of time." Facebook spokesperson Frederic Wolens said at the time the company would be upgrading this process to speed deletion.

On Thursday, Cheng reports that photos she and others had links to, which should have been deleted, have officially disappeared from the Internet. Wolens told Cheng this is due to Facebook's new photo deletion policy. Here's more details:

"As a result of work on our policies and infrastructure, we have instituted a 'max-age' of 30 days for our CDN links," Wolens told Ars this week. "However, in some cases the content will expire on the CDN much more quickly, based on a number of factors."

Wolens wouldn't elaborate on what those factors are, but he did emphasize once again that people casually surfing Facebook would stop seeing the photo immediately upon deletion.

"As you know, the photos stop being shown to other users on Facebook immediately when the photo is first deleted by the user. The 30-day window only applies to the cached images on the CDN," Wolens said.

Better late than never, but 3+ years is still quite a while for the world's most popular social network to figure out how to remove images from its CDN properly.

Just because the problem seems to be fixed does not mean there aren't other improvements to be made, according to Cheng. She writes other than realizing the widespread nature of Facebook's privacy issues, she also learned that getting Facebook to listen to user complaints is like pulling teeth. She also notes other bits of deleted content seem to remain alive on the site in one manner or another indefinitely. As Facebook is now publicly traded, Cheng says "these kinds of issues will only get more and more attention from users and regulators alike."

Featured image via 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

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