More than 250 million photos are uploaded each day on Facebook, according to the social network's media site. And in case you hadn't noticed, "sharing pictures is one of the most popular activities on Facebook." So, not surprisingly, Facebook etiquette about photos is a common complaint among users.
Whether to limit who can tag you in an image, or if pics of other peoples' kids should be shared at all, are often topics of controversy. Most egregious, however, are those embarrassing photos — purposely posted by your so-called "friends," or pics you posted and later regretted. Whether drunk, foolish or flirting with someone you shouldn't be, your appearance in such pics can lead to all manner of awkward situations, including, as we continue to see in the news, getting Facebook fired, or not even hired in the first place.
The best course of action in such situations seems to be obvious — delete these photos from the social network as soon as possible, whenever possible. But as Ars Technica reports, the photos you delete may still exist via direct links to the image, even years after you thought you removed the photo from your profile.
On Monday, Facebook confirmed to Technolog that the social network does have photos in its system that users believe to be deleted. Instead, these images live on, hiding out on content delivery networks which store copies of network data.
"Approximately 2 percent of users' photos are being stored in an older system that was not properly deleting (these images) after a user deleted the photo on the site," Facebook spokesperson Fred Wolens said.
How many photos is that? In September 2011, Facebook had more than 140 billion photos, making it 10,000 times larger than the photo catalog in the Library of Congress. So that's nearly 3 billion photos stored on that hinky, hoarding system — though who knows how many are supposed to be deleted, let alone how many feature the drunk and/or otherwise humiliated among us?
At any rate, said Wolens, "We are in the process of migrating these photos to the newer system to ensure proper deletion, but until this migration is complete (ETA four to eight weeks) CDN URLs from deleted photos stored on this legacy system may still be accessible."
Ars Technica first reported Facebook's problems with photo retention in 2009, and at the time was told by a Facebook spokesperson something similar — that the social network was "working with our content delivery network (CDN) partner to significantly reduce the amount of time that backup copies persist."
Follow-ups stories by Ars Technica 2010, and again on Sunday reported that images believed to be deleted by readers as far back as 2008 still exist via direct links on Facebook.
More on the annoying way we live now:
- Why there are so many drunk Brits on Facebook
- Facebook IPO explained ... in cartoon form!
- 7 signs we're living in the post-privacy era