How to delete Facebook permanently and get your data back

Facebook is facing a crisis. Its involvement in the Cambridge Analytica saga saw its CEO Mark Zuckeberg spend two days being grilled by Congress, while an investigation has been launched by the UK’s Information Commissioner into Cambridge Analytica’s dealings with the social network. This comes at a time when the UK is gearing up for the introduction of GDPR

Read our explainer on what exactly happened between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook

As a result, it appears Facebook users are looking for a way to cut ties with the company and delete Facebook permanently. Data from web monitoring experts Hitwise saw searches for “delete Facebook” increase by 423% after the saga began on Sunday 18 March. “How to delete Facebook” was the 7th most popular search query out of all Facebook-related searches and searches for Mark Zuckerberg increased 1,054%. A more recent study, which surveyed 1,000 Americans, found that 10% had deleted their Facebook account. 

What’s more, Google recently released its 2018 Year in Review, detailing the most searched phrases and queries in the UK and around the world – and the results corroborate Hitwise’s findings. “How to delete Facebook?” came sixth on Google’s roundup of the top ten “How to?” searches.

And it wasn’t anomalous; searches for how to delete or roll back social media abounded this year. “How to delete Instagram?” was also searched – and more so than its Facebook counterpart, coming in fifth place. Looks like the value of Zuckerberg’s portfolio might waning a little…

With this in mind, we’ve put together a simple guide on how to delete Facebook and recover your data below, and a guide to find out what Facebook knows about you

Before we begin, make sure you want to permanently delete your Facebook account, not just temporarily remove it. Following the steps below will lead to complete removal of your Facebook account and all its data, which cannot be undone. If you just want to take a break without deleting your account, or stop Facebook from tracking you, we’ve shown how to deactivate a Facebook, and block the site instead.

How to deactivate Facebook

If you don’t want to permanently delete Facebook you can temporarily deactivate it instead. 

  1. Click the account menu at the top right of any Facebook page
  2. Select Settings
  3. Click General in the left column and choose Manage your account.
  4. Scroll down and you’ll see the Deactivate Facebook option. 
  5. Click the Deactivate Facebook link and follow the on-screen instructions.

READ NEXT: See everything Facebook knows about you

If you deactivate your account your profile will no longer be visible. You will no longer appear in your Friends’ lists and people won’t be able to search for you. Some information, such as messages you sent to friends, may still be visible to others.To reactivate an account, at any time, you can log back into your account on any device. If you don’t want to accidentally reactivate your account, you’ll need to sign out from all devices including the mobile app.

How to stop Facebook tracking you

To help you protect your data online without having to delete Facebook, Adblock Plus features a tool that lets you disable the social media (Like) buttons embedded on sites outside of the social network. These buttons let Facebook track users’ browsing behaviour beyond Facebook, and this data can be open to advertisers. 

To block these social buttons, click here, then click “open this dialogue”.  You can also click here, then click “Subscribe: Fanboy’s Social Blocking List”. Here is a browser-specific guide for installation if you run into trouble.

How to permanently delete Facebook 

1. Log into Facebook

For security reasons, you will need to log in to delete your Facebook account. If you’re deleting an account you haven’t used in a while and have forgotten your password, you will need to reset it.

  1. Go to the Find Your Account Page
  2. Type the email, phone number, full name or username associated with your account, then click Search
  3. Follow the step-by-step guide 
If that doesn’t work, or you don’t have access to the linked phone number or email address, Facebook can help you recover your account instead. 

Full instructions on how to reset your Facebook password can be found here.

2. Download your Facebook data

 As you’re looking to delete Facebook permanently, you may wish to save your data first. You can do this by clicking on the down arrow in the top right-hand corner of the screen and selecting Settings.

You will be presented with a list of general account settings. At the bottom is a link to “download a copy of your Facebook data”, where you can do exactly that.

How to delete your Facebook account

3. Contact Facebook

Facebook doesn’t make it easy to delete your account and has buried the request form deep in its help pages. To make it easier for you, we’ve linked to it here – you will need to be logged in to continue.

How to delete your Facebook account

A pop-up window should appear which reads: “If you do not think you will use Facebook again and would like your account deleted, we can take care of this for you. Keep in mind that you will not be able to reactivate your account or retrieve any of the content of information you have added. If you would still like your account deleted, click “Delete My Account.”

4. The final step

You will now get a pop-up window warning you, once again, that this is a permanent decision. To permanently delete Facebook, re-enter your password. You will also need to enter a CAPTCHA, then click “OK”.

How to delete your Facebook account

5. The cooling-off period

Clicking OK on the delete pop-up isn’t quite the end of the process. The previous pop-up will instead be replaced with this message: “Your account has been deactivated from the site and will be permanently deleted within 14 days. If you log into your account within the next 14 days, you will have the option to cancel your request.”

After clicking OK on this message you will have 14 days to change your mind. After that time, your account will be gone forever with no way of reactivating it or retrieving any data you didn’t save. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

To reactivate your account, simply sign back into your account.

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