After Cambridge Analytica scandal: How to delete your Facebook account

You want to quit Facebook? We explain step by step how to temporarily deactivate or permanently delete your account.

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Björn GreifEditor

[Please find an updated version of this how-to guide here.]

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, many Facebook users have lost all trust in the social network. The data analysis company managed to secretly scrape data from over 50 million Facebook users and mined it for voter insights. Cambridge Analytica is said to have played a decisive role in the US presidential election campaign: They mobilized supporters of current President Donald Trump with targeted ads on Facebook and at the same time discouraged potential supporters of his opponent Hillary Clinton to go to the polls.

After days of silence, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged some mistakes. In a statement, he promised to better protect user data in the future. But many disappointed users apparently do not want to rely on that and call on others to delete their Facebook account. On Twitter, #deletefacebook became a trending hashtag. Even WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who sold his company to Facebook in 2014, used the hashtag in a tweet:

But it is not that easy to turn your back on Facebook. The options to temporarily deactivate or permanently delete your Facebook account are more or less well hidden. We’ll explain step by step how to proceed.

Deactivate your Facebook account

When you deactivate your Facebook account, all data will remain stored on Facebook’s servers. This will allow you to reactivate your profile later if you change your mind. You can deactivate your account by following these steps:

  1. Log in to Facebook. Open the “General” section in the account settings and select “Manage Account”. There you will find the option to deactivate your account.
  2. In the next step you have to enter your password again.
  3. You will then be asked if you really want to deactivate your account. By displaying five random Facebook friends and telling you that they will no longer be able to keep in touch with you, Facebook wants you to reconsider your decision. You are also required to give a reason for deactivating your account. Finally, you can opt out of receiving future emails from Facebook(-friends).
  1. Confirm the process by clicking “Deactivate”.

Now your profile is disabled until the next login with your usual login data. Your name and photo will be removed “from most things you’ve shared on Facebook,” Facebook says. This means that your Facebook profile is no longer available to other members or search engines. However, some information may still be visible to others, such as your name in their friends list and messages you have sent.

Delete your Facebook account

Deleting your Facebook account will permanently remove your profile and all related data. However, the social network does not provide its own setting option for this. Here’s what to do:

  1. Open the link in your browser. You may need to log in to your Facebook account first. Alternatively, you can search for the article “How do I permanently delete my account” within the Help Center of the Facebook app. The support article also contains the link to the account deletion page (click on “let us know”).
  2. Now you must confirm the account deletion. Enter your password again and click “Submit”.
Delete your Facebook account
  1. Another confirmation formally completes the deletion request.

However, Facebook will only start deleting your data from its servers after a two-week period. The actual deletion process may take up to 90 days and includes all published posts, photos, status updates or other data stored in backup systems. If you log in to your account again during this time, the deletion request will be revoked. Information not stored directly in your account, such as messages to friends, remains even after you delete your account.

In the end, you have to be aware that your own traces on the web can usually not be completely erased. Therefore, you should generally think carefully about what you reveal about yourself on the Internet. In addition, it is recommended to use an anti-tracking tool such as Ghostery or Cliqz, which are available for free download. Even if you delete your Facebook account and consciously decide to stop using the services or products offered by Facebook, you are still likely to be monitored by the social network, which tracks nearly 30 percent of global website traffic.