CNET discovered that simply deactivating your account doesn’t go far enough

James Martin/CNET

If you thought that deactivating your Facebook account was enough to keep it from tracking your data, you’re wrong. Turns out that the social network continues to track you even after you’ve deactivated your account. Facebook defends the practice by saying it expects you to eventually come back to the service after deactivating your account, and when you do, the ads it shows you should still be relevant.

This, combined with some concerning behavior over the last few years, might nudge you to go. Maybe it was the Cambridge Analytica scandal during the 2016 election that sealed the deal for you, or the more recent discovery of user data on an unsecured Amazon server. Interestingly, a new study shows people are largely still using Facebook despite the privacy mishaps.

Whatever your reasons, if it’s time for you to delete your Facebook account once and for all, we’ll show you how.

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It may sound obvious, but start by deleting Facebook from your phone.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Delete the Facebook app from your phone

The first step is to delete the app from the phone. Remember that deleting the Facebook app doesn’t delete your account — you can still access it from the browser and other apps might still use Facebook as a login.

Getting rid of it from your phone gets it out of mind, but you’ll need to make sure you do all these other steps or Facebook can still track your movements.

Consider your social platform and messaging alternatives

When you delete your Facebook account, your access to Facebook Messenger goes with it. Let those with whom you only communicate through Messenger know that you’re leaving the service, and figure out a way to stay in touch.

Take the same approach with your Facebook friends by posting a status a few days before you plan on deleting your account, and ask that anyone who wants to keep in touch send a message with their contact info.

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Logging into apps using Facebook is handy until you delete your Facebook account.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

This is important — don’t forget about your other logins

Third-party developers, such as Spotify and Foursquare, have long offered to sign you up and log you in to their services using your Facebook account. It’s super convenient because it keeps you from having to remember yet another password. That is, until you don’t have a Facebook account to use anymore.

You’ll need to address those outside accounts that rely on your Facebook info by logging into each account and disconnecting it from your Facebook account.

To find a list of apps linked to your Facebook account:

  • Sign into Facebook
  • Go to Settings > Apps and websites.
  • If you’re having trouble figuring out how to unlink your Facebook account from a service, contact the company’s customer service department for help.
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Download all of your Facebook data before doing anything else.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Once that’s done, request and download a copy of all your Facebook data:

  • Log into Facebook’s site on your browser
  • Go to Settings > Your Facebook Information
  • Click View next to Download Your Information
  • Leave all of the boxes checked under the Your Information section
  • Leave the date range to All of my data.
  • Leave the format set to HTML — doing so puts your data in an easy-to-navigate format.

Lastly, there are bound to be some photos and videos in your Facebook account that you don’t have a copy of somewhere else, so I recommend changing the media quality from Medium to High. Click Create File and then wait for Facebook to email you that it’s ready.

delete-facebook-account
Read through Facebook’s final advice before deleting your account.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Now you can delete your account

The final step is to delete your account. To do so, visit this page and sign into your account.

Facebook provides a few tools on the account deletion page, including the option to begin the download process for your data before you delete your account, and a reminder to add an admin for any Facebook Pages you are the sole admin for. Otherwise, when you delete your account, that Facebook Page will also disappear.

Alright, you ready? Click Delete Account, enter your password and click Continue. Finally, click Delete Account again and you’re done.

You have 30 days to change your mind

Facebook will take up to 90 days to delete all of your account data from its servers. For the first 30 days of that, you can still sign in and cancel your deletion request. Your account will be restored and it’ll be like you never left. For better or worse.

To cancel your deletion request, visit Facebook.com, log into your account, and click the Cancel Deletion button.

And if you need any help with the emotional side of the breakup, here are some more tips to ease the pain of Facebook separation.

Originally posted April 11 at 10:23 a.m. PT.

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