Ars Technica writer Jacqui Cheng deleted a photo of herself off Facebook in May 2009. She was hoping it would be gone for good — as in completely erased. With a little investigative checking, she discovered that the photo was still lingering on Facebook's content delivery network (CDN) servers nearly 16 months after she had hit the delete button.
So what the heck happened? It seems the culprit is the result of backups — the same storage system for archival purposes some of us probably have set up to ensure that we can recover our lost data.
Last year, Facebook told Ars Technica that a deleted photo would be inaccessible even if it still existed on the server. Ars' followup report makes a new claim by the social network, that if a user has access to the direct URL of the photo, then it may be possible to access it, since it still exists in the CDN's cache (temporary storage). The photo isn't gone until it's flushed out of that cache, which unfortunately for Cheng took 16 months.
Facebook says that it's working to reduce the amount of time a deleted photo remains in the cache. Next time you delete a photo — remember that your ex or arch-nemesis may still have access to the photo, if they saved the URL. But who's diabolical enough to do that?