Facebook doesn’t have a simple way of deleting specific data from one’s timeline including old posts, comments and likes that a person would like to have removed from his or her profile, Slate’s Jennifer Golbeck has learned. While the social network lets you easily save a copy of all your activity — and lets you close your account for that matter — it doesn’t have a tool that can help with removing only certain past actions that may not be relevant to you and your Facebook friends.
Golbeck said she averaged about 10 “activities” per day since joining the network in 2005, which meant she had roughly 30,000 past items to manually delete one by one – printed, her full Facebook Timeline log would have taken 2,400 pages.
“Deleting 30,000 things takes a long time. In the Activity Log, there’s a pencil icon next to each item. Clicking that shows a menu of options. Some items can be truly purged; the Delete option is in the menu itself,” Golbeck wrote. “On average, it took 20 to 30 minutes to purge a month’s worth of posts. After about 12 hours of hand-deleting stories, I decided it was time to automate.”
The writer found two open-source tools that can run in Chrome or Firefox to automate the Facebook activity removal process, including Facebook Timeline Cleaner and Absterge. However, the results were not on par with expectations. The former would let the user delete only certain past activities, although it runs for a long time in the browser and can crash depending on workload. The second solution “is less subtle: it deletes everything.” Even so, some of the deleted posts still reappear on Facebook, whether they have been removed manually or by using an automated program.
“The real lesson I learned from this exercise is how difficult it is to manage one’s online persona. I had it pretty easy: I was willing to delete everything,” Golbeck added. “For someone who wants to cull their Timeline more selectively, the automated solutions wouldn’t work — it could take dozens of hours to clean it up.”
While Golbeck doesn’t see any value in having her entire activity history still available inside Facebook, the social network may certainly be interested in all those posts, status updates and likes to better serve her ads. Last month, it was discovered that Facebook keeps track of everything a customer writes while visiting the social network, even if he or she doesn’t end up posting a status or message, in an attempt to better understand user behavior.
The following image (via Slate) shows you how to use the aforementioned programs to remove past Facebook activity.