Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Facebook simplifies account deletion

But there is still no master “delete” button.

On Monday, Facebook modified its help pages to tell people that if they wanted to remove their accounts entirely, they can direct the company by e-mail to have it done. But on Tuesday, representatives of Facebook stopped short of saying the company would introduce a one-step delete account option.

I called this on Sunday. While Facebook has had a number of high-profile customer-service problems, they typically attempt to resolve them quickly.

Interestingly, while coverage of this issue has (correctly) focused on privacy,—customers want to control their data—there has been little focus on why Facebook has made this process difficult. It’s not because Facebook wants to spy on their users. Rather, I would argue that there is no delete button because customer data is the only thing that Facebook “owns.” Its entire business model is based on users voluntarily providing the site with their preferences and social networks. While Facebook’s director for user experience and design Katie Geminder claims that the company keeps user information so users can reactivate their accounts—

Ms. Geminder said that Facebook’s policies were a reflection of the fact that many people came back to Facebook after they stopped using the site for a time. “On any given day, the number of users reactivating their accounts is roughly half of the number of users deactivating their accounts,” she said.

—she doesn’t mention that they also need this information. It doesn’t make any sense (from a strictly business perspective) for the company to allow users to easily delete the valuable information they have provided the site.

One obvious solution to this problem—users want to own their data and decide what happens to it, while Facebook wants to have access to that data, at least in situations where users decide to return to the site—is for Facebook to let users take their data with them when they leave the site, instead of deactivating or deleting accounts. That way, users will feel that their data is protected, and, if they decide to return to the site, the valuable data will have been archived. It’s a win-win.

No comments: