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Some quitting Facebook as privacy concerns escalate

By John D. Sutter, CNN
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Facebook's privacy troubles
  • In recent weeks more people appear to be deleting their Facebook accounts
  • This comes as a response to rising privacy concerns about the site
  • Facebook has been hit with bugs lately, and it recently announced changes
  • It's unclear how many people have deleted their accounts; it is difficult to do so

(CNN) -- Concerns over Facebook's new privacy policy and the online social network's recent efforts to spread its information across the Web have led some of the site's faithful to delete their accounts -- or at least to try to.

On Wednesday's episode of a podcast called This Week in Technology, host Leo Laporte, a well-known tech pundit, said he had to search wikiHow, a how-to site, to figure out how to delete his Facebook account permanently.

After finding the delete button, which he said is hidden deep within the site's menus, Laporte proceeded to delete his account during the online broadcast.

"That's it. It's gone," he said during the show. "And I think that's the right thing to do."

It's unclear how many people have chosen to delete their Facebook accounts in recent weeks. The popular social network doesn't publish statistics on how many people quit the site.

But there has been much uproar online about Facebook's alleged lack of concern for the privacy of its users' personal information, and its clear that some people have become so upset that they're leaving the networking site, which has more than 400 million members.

Still, the account deletions likely aren't numerous enough to affect the site's overall size. Facebook spokeswoman Annie Ta said in an e-mail that Facebook has grown by more than 10 million active users since late April.

iReport: Are you done with Facebook?

In recent weeks, the site has been hit with several privacy bugs and scares that, among other things, made private chat conversations briefly visible to Facebook friends. And on April 21, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new Facebook feature called the "Open Graph," which essentially brings Facebook-like functionality to a number of websites. is one of several dozen sites that partner with Facebook to display and share users' interests.

Some Facebook users, including Sam Schreiber, say they are bothered by the fact that their online preferences are showing up all over the internet now, instead of just on

Schreiber, a 24-year-old who considers herself social-media savvy, says she may delete her account soon because she doesn't understand Facebook's privacy settings well enough to know that her information is being kept safe.

"People already use them like it's crack, so I don't see what the next step is aside from world domination," she said. "So I just think it's too much."

She was particularly concerned when one of her Facebook friends saw on the music site Pandora that she likes the band "New Found Glory."

"I was like, that's really creepy. I haven't logged in. I didn't give it permission. I didn't do anything," she said.

Schreiber said she tried to change her Facebook privacy settings to keep that from happening again, but had to turn to news articles for information about how to do so, which she thought was unreasonable.

Facebook: Read the site's privacy policy

Facebook appears to be rattled a bit by these changes. The blog All Facebook reports that the site's executives called an "all hands" meeting Thursday to discuss its privacy policy in light of recent criticism.

And there are rumors that the site may amend its policies, as CNET reports.

The site has had its detractors before. Each time Facebook makes changes to its privacy policy, thousands of users tend to complain.

But interest in deleting Facebook accounts appears to be rising.

If you type in the phrase "How do I" on Google, one of the first suggested searches that comes up is "How do I delete my Facebook account," a factoid discovered by Danny Sullivan, a blogger at Search Engine Land.

Sullivan looked at similar searches over time and published a graph that shows searches about deleting Facebook accounts have been on the rise sharply since 2009.

"Yes, there's definitely a rising trend," he writes in a blog post on the matter. "Over time, more and more searches at Google have involved [deleting Facebook accounts], it appears. In fact, if you go back to Google and start typing in 'del,' you get 'delete facebook account' as the top suggestion."

A number of tech pundits, including Laporte, have also written recently about deleting or deactivating their accounts.

The blog Silicon Alley Insider posted a list of these on Friday with a headline that says, "Suddenly, everyone is quitting Facebook!"

The blog lists Peter Rojas of the blog GDGT and Matt Cutts from Google as among those who have deleted or deactivated their accounts.

That blog also posted a list of 10 reasons most people will not be able to part with their Facebook accounts, an apparent nod to the fact that, as Facebook continues to grow and to spread into other websites, it may become necessary to have an active Facebook account to make full use of the Web.

The New York Times also reports that people who once made a career promoting Facebook now may cancel their accounts. The newspaper says Deanna Zandt, author of a book called "Share This! How You Will Change the World With Social Networking," may delete hers.

"It's getting harder and harder for me to say, yes it's worth it, you're giving up your privacy to get these services, and I have to put my money where my mouth is," she told the paper.

Tech blogs have asked whether a "Great Facebook Deactivation Wave" is about to take off, and have listed reasons people should ditch the popular site.

Meanwhile, there is a second set of concerns about how difficult it is to delete your Facebook account if and when you decide that's what you'd like to do.

Facebook says on its website that you can "deactivate" your account by following these steps:

"To deactivate your account, navigate to the 'Settings' tab on the Account Settings page," the site says. "Deactivation will remove your profile and content associated with your account from Facebook. In addition, users will not be able to search for you or view any of your information."

But the social network will hold onto your photos and posts if you only "deactivate" your account.

If you want to completely "delete" your account -- meaning that all of your information will be deleted from view, although some of it may remain on Facebook's servers for a bit -- you can follow these instructions from wikiHow.

The user-edited site lists several methods for deleting a Facebook account. One of them is a seven-step process.

In his podcast, Laporte said one of the main reasons he felt he needed to delete his Facebook account is that having one gives his friends and family members an incentive to join, too.

And, because many people don't understand that everything on Facebook can be public, Laporte doesn't think it's responsible to have an account. By having a Facebook page, he said, "I'm coercing people I'm in relationships with to do something bad."