Nuffie

BAD NEWS ABOUT 'DELETE' BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS "DELETE' ON THE INTERNET


Web Sites 'Keep Deleted Photos"






Facebook says
images are removed
from its servers immediately.


BUZZ ON Y! says:


It's always fun to write about research that you can actually try out for yourself.

Try this: Take a photo and upload it to Facebook, then after a day or so, note what the URL to the picture is (the actual photo, not the page on which the photo resides), and then delete it. Come back a month later and see if the link works. Chances are: It will.

Facebook isn't alone here. Researchers at Cambridge University (so you know this is legit, people!) have found that nearly half of the social networking sites don't immediately delete pictures when a user requests they be removed. In general, photo-centric websites like Flickr were found to be better at quickly removing deleted photos upon request.

Why do "deleted" photos stick around so long? The problem relates to the way data is stored on large websites: While your personal computer only keeps one copy of a file, large-scale services like Facebook rely on what are called content delivery networks to manage data and distribution. It's a complex system wherein data is copied to multiple intermediate devices, usually to speed up access to files when millions of people are trying to access the service simultaneously. (Yahoo! Tech is served by dozens of servers, for example.) But because changes aren't reflected across the CDN immediately, ghost copies of files tend to linger for days or weeks.

In the case of Facebook, the company says data may hang around until the URL in question is reused, which is usually "after a short period of time." Though obviously that time can vary considerably.

Of course, once a photo escapes from the walled garden of a social network like Facebook, the chances of deleting it permanently fall even further. Google's caching system is remarkably efficient at archiving copies of web content, long after it's removed from the web. Anyone who's ever used Google Image Search can likely tell you a story about clicking on a thumbnail image, only to find that the image has been deleted from the website in question -- yet the thumbnail remains on Google for months. And then there are services like the Wayback Machine, which copy entire websites for posterity, archiving data and pictures forever.

The lesson: Those drunken party photos you don't want people to see? Simply don't upload them to the web, ever, because trying to delete them after you sober up is a tough proposition.

Websites 'keeping deleted photos'

BBC NEWS says:

User photographs can still be found on many social networking sites even after people have deleted them, Cambridge University researchers have said.

They put photos on 16 popular websites - noting the web addresses where the images were stored - and deleted them.

The team said it was able to find them on seven sites - including Facebook - using the direct addresses, even after the photos appeared to have gone.

Facebook says deleted photos are removed from its servers "immediately".

The Cambridge University researchers said special photo-sharing sites, such as Flickr and Google's Picasa, did better and Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces removed the photos instantly.

To perform their experiment, the researchers uploaded photos to each of the sites, then deleted them, but kept a note of direct URLs to the photos from the sites' content delivery networks.

When they checked 30 days later, these links continued to work for seven of the sites even though a typical user might think the photos had been removed.

Lazy approach

Joseph Bonneau, one of the PhD students who carried out the study, said: "This demonstrates how social networking sites often take a lazy approach to user privacy, doing what's simpler rather than what is correct.

"It's imperative to view privacy as a design constraint, not a legal add-on."

But a Facebook spokesman defended the company's approach saying; "When a user deletes a photograph from Facebook it is removed from our servers immediately.

"However, URLs to photographs may continue to exist on the Content Delivery Network (CDN) after users delete them from Facebook, until they are overwritten.

"Overwriting usually happens after a short period of time."

Users of Facebook staged a revolt recently over rules which would have given the site permanent ownership of their data.

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