eDiscovery Trends: Three Years Later, “Deleted” Facebook Photos Still Online
March 28, 2012
So, that’s why they call it “Facebook”. Because the “faces” never leave! Ba-dum-bah! Hey, I’m in town all week!
Thanks to the Technologist for this article, by way of Ars Technica. If you have deleted any of your photos from Facebook in the past three years, you may be surprised to find that they are probably still on the company’s servers.
Facebook is still trying to provide timely deletion of photos from its servers nearly three years after Ars Technica first raised the issue. Admitting that its older systems for storing uploaded content "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 recently stated that it's currently completing a newer system that will effectively delete photos within 45 days of the removal request. Until then, photos that users thought they "deleted" from the social network months or even years ago remain accessible via direct link.
Facebook has addressed this issue in its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, as follows: “when you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).”
Not available to others unless they know the direct link to that content, apparently.
As author (from Ars Technica) Jacqui Cheng notes, “There were plenty of stories in between as well, and panicked Facebook users continue to e-mail me, asking if we have heard of any new way to ensure that their deleted photos are, well, deleted. For example, one reader linked me to a photo that a friend of his had posted of his toddler crawling naked on the lawn. He asked his friend to take it down for obvious reasons, and so the friend did—in May of 2008. As of this writing in 2012, I have personally confirmed that the photo is still online, as are several others that readers linked me to that were deleted at various points in 2009 and 2010.” However, she noted that Facebook did delete her pictures after she did a story in 2010.
Needless to say, as discovery requests for Facebook content continue to increase (such as cases here, here, here, here and here illustrate), this could be discoverable ESI as long as that information is out there. For attorneys that are contemplating requesting data from Facebook, it may be important to familiarize themselves with Facebook’s Law Enforcement page on how to request that information. Apparently, just because the opposing party can no longer access that information doesn’t mean it’s not still available.
So, what do you think? Are you surprised at how Facebook has been handling deletions? Are you worried that some of your deleted data might still be out there? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
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