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Don’t just delete Facebook – poison your valuable data before you go

Published Mar 29th, 2018 3:15PM EDT
Delete Facebook Data
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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Nobody can blame you if you want to delete Facebook and forget it ever happened, after what we all learned about the huge Cambridge Analytica privacy breach implications. Leaving Facebook, however, is easier said than done. Because, like it or not, Facebook does offer simple means of staying in touch with all your friends. That said, there are ways to limit what kind of data Facebook is collecting about you.

If you’re determined to leave the social network, you should know that there’s a clever way that lets you “poison” your data. The downside is that you’d have to stay on Facebook for a few more months to pull it off. On top of that, the entire process might go against Facebook’s terms of service and could raise some flags.

Former systems administrator Kevin Matthew, who now owns his web development company, created a script that lets you automatically replace your old Facebook posts with gibberish meant to reduce the amount of data Facebook has on you. The idea is that you’d have a program replace your Facebook updates for hundreds or thousands of times, to force Facebook to delete some of your old information. That’s because, even if you pull out, Facebook may still retain a copy of your data, and track you even after you’re no longer a registered user.

“My background is as a systems administrator, I’ve been doing that for 20 years, and everyone has data retention policies and backups,” he told Motherboard in an interview. “Facebook, with its infinite amount of resources, I can only begin to imagine how that data is being held and retained.”

The image above shows an example of the gibberish posts the tool creates for you.

“Every little bit of information contributes to that invisible profile that they’re building of everyone,” Matthew added. “If we can obfuscate it even a little bit, that at least puts the power back into your hands as an end user.”

A similar script could be used to automatically visit random web pages while you’re away from your computer, in a browser that you’re logged into Facebook with. That way, you might confuse Facebook about the kind of things you’re interested in.

Matthew’s goal isn’t to help you poison your data, but to raise awareness of the fact that the US and Canada do not have “right to be forgotten” policies in place, which could force Facebook to actually delete user data for those customers who delete their profiles.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.