What happens online stays online. This could not have been truer concerning photos uploaded to Facebook. Facebook, one of the leading social media sites for sharing pictures and albums, previously stored all uploaded photos on the Facebook servers indefinitely. Even user-deleted photos remained on the server. This meant that although you may have erased any trace of a certain picture from your profile, it still existed in its complete form and was accessible with a direct URL.
However, Facebook recently revised its policy concerning deleted photos. Instead of storing erased pictures on its servers, Facebook will now completely remove the photos from its servers within days of deletion. Thus, when you delete a photo from Facebook, it will truly be removed. Essentially, it will be as if Facebook never encountered the photo.
Implications of the new server policy
For those concerned with data privacy and content ownership, this represents a significant development. Users can essentially turn back time and entirely remove any evidence that their photos ever existed on Facebook.
However, Facebook’s new policy presents acute challenges to social media recordkeeping, particularly for businesses. Now, effectively capturing and archiving Facebook activity requires a plan independent of the Facebook servers. An offensive photo might be uploaded and viewed by customers or regulators and deleted shortly afterwards, erasing any record of the photo. If the business in question does not effectively and automatically archive social media records, or it relies on Facebook servers to supply the necessary records, suddenly, this business may be in significant regulatory or legal trouble.
Failing to keep accurate social media records presents the business with regulatory risks and the possibility of significant e-discovery costs in recovering an unrecoverable photo. Now that users can delete any trace of a picture on Facebook, a business must be prepared to capture the record before it is erased from Facebook. As it now seems, not everything that happens online stays online.