Dark Patterns when Deleting an Account on Facebook

3 min read

By default, Facebook makes it more complicated than it needs to be to delete an account. Their default state is to have an account be deactivated, but not deleted.

However, both the deactivation and deletion process can be undone if a person logs back into Facebook.

To make matters worse, to fully delete an account, a person needs to make a separate request to Facebook to start the account deletion process. Facebook splits the important information across two separate pages, which further complicates the process of actually deleting an account. The main page for deleting an account has some pretty straightforward language.

However, this language is undercut by the information on the . page that describes the difference between deactivating and deleting an account.

Some key details from the second page that are omitted from the main page on deleting an account include this gem:

We delay deletion a few days after it's requested. A deletion request is cancelled if you log back into your Facebook account during this time.

This delay is critical, and the fact that it can be undone is also something that needs additional attention.

Facebook further clarifies what they consider "logging in" in a third, separate page, where they describe deactivating an account.

If you’d like to come back to Facebook after you’ve deactivated your account, you can reactivate your account at anytime by logging in with your email and password. Keep in mind, if you use your Facebook account to log into Facebook or somewhere else, your account will be reactivated.

While Facebook's instructions aren't remotely as clear as they should be, the language they use here implies that an account deletion request can be undone if a person logs in (or possibly just uses a service with an active Facebook login) at any point during the "few days" after a person has requested their account deletion. It's also unclear what this means if someone logs into Messenger. And, of course, the avcerage person will never know that their Facebook account hasn't been deleted because they won't be going back to Facebook to check.

My recommendations here for people looking to leave Facebook:

  • First, identify any third party services where you use Facebook login. If possible, migrate those accounts to a separate login unconnected from Facebook.
  • Second, delete the Facebook app from all mobile devices.
  • Third, using the web UI on a computer, request account deletion from within Facebook.
  • Fourth, install an ad blocker so Facebook has a harder time tracking you via social share icons.