I always had a vague notion that when one deletes a post or comment in Facebook that they don't actually delete it. Instead, behind the scenes they simply mark it to not display.

This irked me mildly, as I think they should actually delete it. But I lived with it because... well, I just did.

However, I have just discovered that the new "timeline" interface is displaying all my previously deleted posts. I do not use the timeline myself, but in cases where my friends have adopted it, from what I can tell, any post or comment I made connected to that friend is now displaying within their timeline (and some other places), despite the fact that I have deleted it.

I can be sure these are deleted posts because I delete everything more than a few weeks old. To me, Facebook (or G+ or whoever is the social media du jour) is there to represent my current activities and self. I have absolutely, 100%, no interest in leaving a history there. As a result of what I assume is a bug in the new timeline interface, posts from as far back as two and three years ago are visible.

Since I have now seen first hand that a bug or bad programming (I have sent in a bug report to their customer service) can result in my deleted information being spat out despite my wishes, I am much, much less interested in using Facebook.

I may start making more use of my Google+ account, but...

Does Google also merely hide "deleted" posts, comments, and content, as Facebook does, or do they actually delete it?

  • About the timeline interface, I think they should show "deleted" content only to the user created that content, not to it's friends or anybody else.
    – Radu Maris
    Jan 31, 2012 at 9:23
  • I'm saying that in my opinion this is how it "should" work: you create the content, you delete it, you and only you would be able to see your deleted content, and in case you changed your mind you can "undelete" it, don't know how it actualy works, I didn't use it.
    – Radu Maris
    Jan 31, 2012 at 15:13
  • 1
    Though it doesn't answer your Q directly, you can use googles [Data Liberation Front] (dataliberation.org) to download a copy of your data. This may give an idea as to what is lying around - perhaps by downloading a copy, then deleting something online, downloading another, and comparing, you can get a rough idea of what they keep.
    – george
    Feb 1, 2012 at 14:41

3 Answers 3


I don't think G+ (or any other) will delete your content.

I think there is a best practice somewhere that says "do not delete anything" (at least this is how I learned database design), it's just like in nature "nothing is lost, everithing is recycled". :)

They rely on content—think of Google search—sometimes it seems that it knows what you want to search, beacause the more users search, their database grows bigger and bigger, the more database searches that can compare with the more precise is the result. This is true for social media to, they build a profile for every user, and they build the so called "social graph" of the world (read this interview). :)

What they do with the results... first they are showing custom ads, I think they even sale the results to big companies—they have data that is extremly valuable in marketing. For example: a phone company launches 2 new models, m1 and m2, after a few weeks they go to G+, Facebook, and ask them, what is the phone that users talk more m1 or m2, and what phone from a competitor is on top of users talks?

So you need to know that every time you register to a service like this, ALL your data will be stored forever by the company, be it G+, Facebook... you name it.

That's my opinion.


Since it's not known for sure, your question will trigger some subjective answers. Here is mine: in a word, no. Why? Because they need all the content they can get, in order to improve their algorithms. Below is an excerpt from their "Remove all Web History" help page, which clearly states that logs are kept.

However, as is common practice in the industry, and as outlined in the Google Privacy Policy, Google maintains a separate logs system for auditing purposes and to help us improve the quality of our services for users.

Again, this is pure speculation, so take it with a grain of salt.


Originally I added this as an update to my question, but then I realized I was basically providing my own answer. I think this is probably about as authorative as I'm likely to get, and it was derived from comments on a Google Groups thread.

Google's new privacy policy says:

We aim to maintain our services in a manner that protects information from accidental or malicious destruction. Because of this, after you delete information from our services, we may not immediately delete residual copies from our active servers and may not remove information from our backup systems.

So while it does leave open the possibility that they could still mine the backups for deleted data, it does seem to strongly imply that my main concern, that data be taken out of the active flow, is addressed. I'm reasonably confident that a bug like the one I encountered on Facebook wouldn't happen if the data was off the active servers and only existed in offline backups.

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