Deleted Facebook photos still accessible in cyberspace: Report

Published: February 7, 2012
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Trashed pictures as old as four years can be accessed through direct URLs. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Trashed pictures as old as four years can be accessed through direct URLs. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Deleted Facebook photographs might disappear from the photos section of the user’s profile but they remain accessible through a link to the image itself, British newspaper The Daily Mail has reported.

Once a user deletes an image, it vanishes from “normal” views of the site – that is if you log in to Facebook and look through somebody’s photos page, they won’t be visible – but remains visible to anyone with a direct URL link to the picture. That means that if, for instance, a picture has been circulated by email, the image will still be there for anyone who clicks the link.

Pictures as old as four years can be accessed through direct links. Technology site Ars Technica reports that a picture of a naked toddler supposedly “removed” in 2008 was still visible as of February 2012.

Facebook has repeatedly promised to “fix” problems with the systems it uses to remove photographs, after users pointed out that images tended to persist after deletion. The company admits that its systems “do not always delete images in a reasonable period of time”.

The revelation comes after Facebook faced criticism for its new Timeline profile page, giving users seven days to “tidy up” their timelines by removing pictures and posts they don’t like.

Facebook says that an upcoming system update will fix the problem. Even so, “deleted” pictures will still be accessible for up to 45 days after deletion.

A Facebook spokesman said, “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.

“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. This process is nearly complete and there is only a very small percentage of user photos still on the old system awaiting migration.

“We expect this process to be completed within the next month or two, at which point we will verify that migration is complete and we will disable all old content.”

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