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I recently deactivated my Facebook account. I know that it's not quite deletion (although in a subpeona Facebook can still technically get to your information) and that Facebook also allows you to reactivate it simply by logging in.

Is there any real practical difference between deactivation and deletion?

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Deactivation means that all your data is still present, but not visible on the site.

Deletion would mean that all your data is actually removed from the live database (but might still be available on backups/archives).

So the practical difference is that in the first case your data is still there and could still be viewed if there was a bug in the code, while in the second case your data is gone and can't be viewed no matter how hard someone tries.

Deactivation is a useful state for a lot of data - it makes it a lot easier to implement the undo of a "delete" if the data is actually still there!

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Great answer. I thought I should add that currently—and in all likelihood for the life of Facebook—account deletion is not an option the user has access to. The user must go through and manually remove every single post, photo, wall post on other people's wall, status update, comment and Like they have ever made. –  msanford Dec 1 '10 at 23:26
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