Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, etc.

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cbd15
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Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, etc.

Postby cbd15 » Wed Nov 02, 2011 12:43 pm UTC

Hey All!

I just figured that I'd share this with you all, as it's neat and I just found it out. If you want any more proof (not that you need it) that Facebook keeps *all* of your information, regardless of deleting it, go and do a complete download of your data. The link is provided at the bottom of your account settings page.

You will find that when Facebook scours its servers for all of your stuff so that you keep it on your computer in your own nice, little, personal file, it somehow, miraculously, comes up with all of those photos and inbox messages (hello there, things that I said to my old boyfriend) that you long ago "deleted"! Interestingly enough, it doesn't do an incredibly good job of collecting your chat information, especially older stuff (and especially since it spent all the time integrating the chats with the inbox), but bits and pieces are all perfectly preserved for posterity. So that's all really fun. There do seem to be incredibly random fragments that are missing, however (but I think it's more to blame for the way they collect the data, there are small patches of things that I had and hadn't deleted that are both missing).

And I mean, we all knew that Facebook wouldn't delete it, but I didn't actually expect the problem to be this endemic or for them to so foolishly let it show. A glitch, I suppose. So this of course makes me doubt their capacity to delete your information once you delete your account (which can already be pretty 麻烦), and of course makes one wonder just what happens when you remove a tag from a photo.

Just thought folks might find this interesting.

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rigwarl
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby rigwarl » Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:22 pm UTC

If anyone has done this, do you know if it includes "Notes"? I believe it's an official Facebook application rather than a 3rd party application. Anyway, I hope to try this when I get home to recover several short stories I have written and foolishly deleted.

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Steax
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby Steax » Wed Nov 02, 2011 4:06 pm UTC

Why delete old material when you can preserve it and allow for better advertisement targeting personalization?

If they do "remove" it, more likely they'll just stop displaying it to you on request, instead of actually deleting it.
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rabidmuskrat
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby rabidmuskrat » Wed Nov 02, 2011 5:23 pm UTC

It's actually a fairly common design policy in software engineering to not completely delete things if you can avoid it. The truly odd thing though is that they include it in the export. In a lot of ways, I kind of respect the full disclosure nature of it, but I can definitely see where it might get some people riled up.

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Panonadin
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby Panonadin » Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:19 pm UTC

I'm going to try this when I get home, should be interesting. I actually didn't even know about the whole "Download all of my stuff" button.

I'm kind of scared.
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Magnanimous
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby Magnanimous » Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:38 pm UTC

rabidmuskrat wrote:It's actually a fairly common design policy in software engineering to not completely delete things if you can avoid it. The truly odd thing though is that they include it in the export. In a lot of ways, I kind of respect the full disclosure nature of it, but I can definitely see where it might get some people riled up.

I can understand keeping the data on the server, but including deleted things in the export is pretty worrying. It's already easy enough (in some cases) for an intruder to access someone else's Facebook; at the very least they could leave out deleted information.

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Panonadin
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby Panonadin » Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:18 am UTC

I went right home and tried this and nothing that has been deleted by me was in the file. No messages, not comments, not anything.

Think they went and fixed it that fast? Or maybe your case was a one off?
addams wrote:This forum has some very well educated people typing away in loops with Sourmilk. He is a lucky Sourmilk.

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rigwarl
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby rigwarl » Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:01 pm UTC

I did this as well, couldn't recover anything I deleted =(

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firer
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby firer » Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:21 am UTC

[disclosure: I'm an ex-insider, so my opinion might be biased]

Your case might have been a one-off. Deleting private and scattered information in distributed systems is actually an incredibly hard problem, and I believe cases like this might be possible once in a while. In organizations like Facebook, there's usually a nontrivial amount of resources (both human and computational) dedicated to this problem. Of course, if this really happened, then Facebook is entirely to be blamed; I'm just trying to say that it's not just business strategy, it's really a computationally hard problem.
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Sean Quixote
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby Sean Quixote » Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:41 pm UTC

I must be misunderstanding something, what's so difficult about deletion? I would think that the problem of disseminating all that private information (whether it be for the purpose of targeted advertising or "personalization", whatever the hell that might be, other than a euphemism for the former) would be the more computationally complex.

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Jave D
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby Jave D » Sat Nov 26, 2011 11:48 pm UTC

I for one am frightened that Facebook is going to be remembering all the things I tell it. It's like having a shrewish wife with an eidetic memory, never forgetting all the things I told her and happy to remind me, and the world, constantly.

Not that I would know about having a wife of any sort, but I imagine it would suck. Like being married to Facebook and having Mark Zuckerberg as a father-in-law.

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firer
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Re: Facebook: Malicious Beast out to Get Your Information, e

Postby firer » Sun Nov 27, 2011 12:05 am UTC

Sean Quixote wrote:I must be misunderstanding something, what's so difficult about deletion? I would think that the problem of disseminating all that private information (whether it be for the purpose of targeted advertising or "personalization", whatever the hell that might be, other than a euphemism for the former) would be the more computationally complex.


What happens is that these systems are designed to efficiently support only inserts (and reads). Oftentimes, support for deletion/update is done by marking that content as "not to be used" and inserting another record into the system. From the moment you make the assumption that "deletes won't exist", you can greatly optimize many other areas of your database. In short, these systems are so heavily loaded that, to efficiently support the most critical operations -- inserts and reads -- you have to sacrifice operations like deletes.

Of course, deletion is possible, even within those heavily optimized architectures. But it's slow, or may have to be done in batches, so you have to craft a whole other set of tools to make it happen. That's why deletion is nontrivial. Since it's a way less tested piece of software (and it's a complex problem to begin with), bugs might appear more frequently than in something that's used (and consequently tested) by millions every day, like the "Like" button.
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