Rumors are swirling Facebook may be adding an actual "Delete Account" option to its service. Rumors are also swirling this is just a red herring -- that Facebook is trying out different language that makes it seem as if it's offering an easy way out without actually changing anything substantive.
Which is true? Only Facebook knows for sure, and they ain't talking. Well, they're talking, but they're not saying much. Per Facebook product manager David Breger (posting a comment on NextWeb):
"This is one of many tests that we’re always running. The test includes a variation of the account deletion option for a small percentage of users. Testing potential features is an important part of our product development process, and tells us if they benefit users in the way we think they will, what we might do to make them even better, and in some instances, when we need to go back to the drawing board."
Yes, Facebook does have a "delete account" option already. But it's so deliberately cumbersome it is nearly useless. As I've detailed before in this space, that option is deeply hidden within the bowels of Facebook's Help Center (though you can find a shortcut here). And once you get there, you have to jump through three or four more hoops, and then your account is merely deactivated for 14 days before it's actually deleted.
[ See also: Should Facebook charge for privacy? ]
If you log in again any time during that two-week period, your account is instantly reactivated. If you use Facebook Connect to log into a third party site to leave a comment, your account is also reactivated.
This is annoying but still doable for a determined adult. But if you're an adult who's determined to delete your child's Facebook account (I'm not naming any names here), because said child has been warned umpteen times to stop screwing around on Facebook and has completely ignored you, it's virtually impossible.
If you want to kill your child's Facebook account, and that child is determined to not let you kill his account, you pretty much have to go Full Amish on the kid for two solid weeks -- no computer access at home, school, library, or friends' homes; no cell phone access at all. Really, anything with a browser on it -- the Playstation, PS3, the Kindle -- is off limits. Try that with a 14 year old sometime and tell me how that works.
So I'm hoping the first batch of rumors are true, and that Facebook is finally offering a reasonable way to remove yourself (or your family members) from the service. They've got 500 million members; they can risk losing a handful. Frankly, Facebook owes us that much.
When ITworld TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan isn't trying to boot his kids off Facebook, he cranks out inappropriate stories for eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild) and a gazillion other Web sites. Follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech.