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Fed Up With Facebook? Delete it, and Here's How

Delete your Facebook account
Back in February, CEO Mark Zuckerberg celebrated Facebook's 6th birthday and 400 millionth member by penning an open letter to his users to thank them for making both milestones possible. "Whether in times of tragedy or joy, people want to share and help one another," Zuckerberg wrote. "This human need is what inspires us to continue to innovate and build things that allow people to connect easily and share their lives with one another."

His language may have been grandiose, but Zuckerberg's message was clear: Facebook is only as big as its users have allowed it to be. Zuckerberg designed the Facebook universe, but it was the online proletariat that provided the gravitational force necessary to keep everything in orbit.

Somewhere between then and now, however, things changed. The campfire's been extinguished, the 'Kumbayah' songs of global online brotherhood are now nothing more than a faint echo.

Just a few months after its 400 millionth user hopped aboard, the company faces a scenario in which a sizable swath of its members are looking for a way to drop out of the Facebook loop altogether. Although the specter of a Facebook exodus has reared its head in the past, the possibility of a "Great Facebook Deactivation Wave" now seems more plausible than ever. Even U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer has a beef with Zuck.

In the blink of an eye, Mark Zuckerberg has gone from boy wonder to Big Brother, from Mozart to Mao. The man and his machine have suffered a populist fall precipitous enough to make even Tiger Woods wince with empathy. All this calamity, of course, begs the obvious question: "How did things go so horribly wrong?"

Paradise Lost: Tracing Facebook's Fall From Grace

The most obvious starting point in mapping out Facebook's fall from social networking grace is April's "f8" conference, where Zuckerberg unveiled the new Open Graph network. The framework aims to expand Facebook's reach to third-party sites across the Internet, in an effort to apply social networking principles to the entire online experience. The CEO reassured his acolytes, however, that users would remain "at the center of the Web."

Facebook also unveiled its new and highly controversial Instant Personalization service, which gives third-party sites access to an individual's personal data in order to market products, songs or news stories according to his or her preferences and online behavior. The Instant Personalization and Open Graph systems, by themselves, probably wouldn't ruffle too many feathers. The problem, however, is that Facebook's bigwigs have given users remarkably little control over either mechanism. Instead of making the services "opt-in," the social network has set them as the default setting for every user, effectively rendering privacy as the exception -- not the rule.

To make matters worse, Facebook's privacy policy has become so woefully complex, it makes a tax return form look like a coloring book. As the New York Times recently pointed out, the company's privacy manifesto, weighing in at 5,380 words, is actually longer than the body of the U.S. Constitution. Since April, the site has fallen prey to a bevy of bugs, some of which were found to leak user e-mail information, or reveal private chat conversations to strangers.

Facebook, for its part, has taken action to patch up some of its holes, and has unveiled a revamped verification system to guard against hackers. That probably won't do much, though, to help assuage the persistent fears that Facebook itself is eroding the privacy rights of its own citizenry. The very users who comprise the vertebrae of Facebook's digital Leviathan have thus begun to voice their displeasure -- and have started walking out.

How to Cut the Cord

Delete Your Facebook Account
Facebook is no stranger to populist uprising. As the site has grown over the years, so too has the surge of Facebook evacuees. The major difference, though, is that quitting Facebook today has become something of a Promethean task. Like Buffalo Bill in 'Silence of the Lambs,' Mark Zuckerberg appears to have successfully lured innocent users into his dank dungeon, only to then throw away the key. Fortunately, though, we found the way out.

As explained on WikiAnswers, deleting your account is entirely feasible, although we wouldn't exactly call the method simple. Before you begin, you should check to make sure you don't have active accounts on separate sites that require you to log-in via Facebook. If you still want to access these sites after you bludgeon your Facebook account to death, you should make sure you have some alternate means of logging in.

To get started, click on this link after you log in. There, you'll find a box that offers you the choice to submit your decision to pull the plug on your account. Once you take a deep breath, say your goodbyes and click "Submit," you'll be prompted to enter your password, and to take a simple Captcha spam test.

After that, you'd think the entire process was finished. And you'd be wrong. You see, Facebook kindly gives you a full 14 days to feel guilty about your decision. Should you log in during the ensuing fortnight, or even if you click a "like" button on a third-party site, your account will suddenly jolt back to life.

If you're still having trouble shaking free of Zuckerberg's unique stench of dystopia and formaldehyde, you can always e-mail network administrators directly at privacy@facebook.com, and ask them to delete your account. It'll probably take a few days for Facebook's employees to answer, but you should get a confirmation response, eventually.

Once you receive it, you should probably double check by trying to log-in to your account. If you can't log in, and if you don't get a message asking you to reactivate your account, Zuckerberg's army of elves has done its job.

Profile assassins beware: even after you've cremated your account, its spirit will still live on in the social networking ether. That's because Facebook, according to Future Tense's John Moe, will retain your personal information for data mining purposes, even after you've spread your profile's ashes across your local beach. Some things, as Daniel Johnston once told us, apparently do last a long time.

"I can't quit you"

Truth be told, quitting Facebook, much like kicking heroin or trans-fats, is easier said than done. Most of us have become so firmly attached to the site that even the thought of cutting the umbilical cord sounds unbearable. As with herpes and Hepatitis C, however, it's entirely possible to live a healthy, productive life on Facebook, tyrannical as it may be. All you have to do is tighten up your privacy controls. The New York Times recently published an appropriately complex graphic that breaks down the various privacy moles you'll have to whack in order to seal your information. And it won't be easy.
You should begin by going to the Privacy Settings page, which can be found under the Settings tab on the homepage. There, you'll be able to control who can see your information; if you want maximum security, you should select "Only Friends" or "Only Me" from the Customize tab menu.
Also on the Privacy Settings page is a section devoted to Applications and Web Sites. Here, you'll find the option to activate the "Like" button on third-party partner sites, like CNN, Pandora or Yelp. If you don't want any of these sites to harvest your information, simply uncheck the box at the bottom of the page.
Facebook also requires disgruntled users to visit partner sites, where they can fully opt-out of Instant Personalization by clicking the "No thanks" link on the Facebook bar that appears at the top of the pages. It's annoying, we know.
While you're in the Applications section, you might as well click on the section pertaining to friends sharing your information. Once you do that, you'll find a menu of information about you that your friends could involuntarily divulge to the rest of the world. You can make sure it never happens, though, by unchecking all of the boxes.

If it's external hackers you're worried about, you can always delete your apps and the data stored on them, which will now be preserved indefinitely under the site's new policy. Otherwise, Facebook's new security measures give users newfound control over who logs in to their account, and from where they do it. It sounds good on paper, but then again, it's Facebook we're talking about. Accepting privacy protection from Mark Zuckerberg is like accepting relationship advice from Larry King.

A Post-Facebook Era?

Whether or not Facebook's empire is crumbling, one thing is obvious: the social network is at an evolutionary crossroads.

What the standoff ultimately boils down to is a simple conflict between corporate hegemony, and consumer demand. Is Facebook confident enough to pursue its agenda against the tide of widespread protest? Or will it eventually come to terms with the fact that its future remains inextricably linked to its digital body politic?

In February, Mark Zuckerberg wrapped up his glorified pat on the back by writing, "We look forward to building more things and continuing to serve you for many more years to come." The question now, though, is whether Facebook's users still want to be "served," or if it's time for us to circle the wagons, and regain control over a social phenomenon that, for all intents and purposes, was ours to begin with.

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Tags: facebook, features, how to delete your facebook account, HowToDeleteYourFacebookAccount, instanpersonalization, mark zuckerberg, MarkZuckerberg, privacy, security, socialnetworking, top, web

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