Facebook photo delay threatens privacy

Facebook and other sites accused of a 'lazy approach' to user privacy

Cambridge University researchers have discovered users can find photographs on many social networking sites, even after the pictures are deleted.

They put photos on 16 popular websites, and then removed them - noting down the direct URLs to the images from the sites - content delivery networks.

They found that seven sites, including Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, had not taken off copies of photos after 30 days. Facebook say they do remove photos 'after a short period of time', however.

Photobucket and the Google-operated Blogger were among those noted for speedier deletion, with Photobucket taking just an hour to remove photos. Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces got rid of the photos instantly.

The findings raise the recurring issue of web privacy. It was recently in the news after users of Facebook opposed rules that would have allowed the site permanent ownership of all of their information.

User privacy takes a 'back seat'

Joseph Bonneau, one of the PhD students from the research team, said: "This demonstrates how social networking sites often take a lazy approach to user privacy, doing what's simpler rather than what is correct."

A Facebook spokesperson disagreed with the findings, saying; "When a user deletes a photograph from Facebook it is removed from our servers immediately.

"However, URLs to photographs may continue to exist on the Content Delivery Network after users delete them from Facebook, until they are overwritten."