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Social Networking Platforms Keep Users’ Images Even After Deletion

A group of Cambridge University researchers revealed that many social networking platforms, including Facebook, continue to keep users’ images even after they have removed them.

Researchers placed images on 16 renowned platforms, noted down the web addresses where the photographs were stored, and subsequently deleted them.

The team claimed that it was able to find those deleted images on as many as seven websites after a month, using the direct web addresses to the images from the websites’ content delivery networks (CDNs). Citing these results, the researchers notified that these links continue to function even after the images seemed to have been removed.

Along the same line, Joseph Bonneau, one of the PhD students who were involved in the study, said in a statement, “This demonstrates how social networking sites often take a lazy approach to user privacy, doing what's simpler rather than what is correct.”

Responding to the striking findings, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement, “When a user deletes a photograph from Facebook it is removed from our servers immediately”.

However, he further went on to say that image URLs might continue to exist on the site’s CDN even after users deleted their images, as complete removal of images requires overwriting the URLs, which generally takes a short period of time.