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Facebook – You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

One thing I have learned about the Internet is the persistence of information. Once it goes up, it’s up. A fun thing to do is to go to the Internet Archive’s “Way Back Machine” which has 85 billion web pages archived from 1996. Here’s what Yahoo! homepage looked like exactly 10 years ago today.

A common story is one where a blogger posts something and then regrets it. Maybe they were too candid about their company or their boss. They take the post down. No one noticed the original post, and few people read the blog, but once they take it down lots of people are interested in what it says. Someone found it archived, reposted it, and now many more people saw it than would have originally if it was left up.

In today’s NY Times is an article about Facebook and the difficulty of getting your data removed. It’s a little complicated because when I send you a message that message is in my account and your account. So to really delete my entire life on Facebook would mean deleting data from many individual accounts.

The lesson is, be careful what you put online and maybe, just assume all is lost on the privacy front.

“It’s like the Hotel California,” said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan, who tried unsuccessfully to delete his account this fall. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

Facebook’s quiet archiving of information from deactivated accounts has increased concerns about the network’s potential abuse of private data, especially in the wake of its fumbled Beacon advertising feature.

That application, which tracks and publishes the items bought by Facebook members on outside Web sites, was introduced in November without a transparent, one-step opt-out feature. After a public backlash, including more than 50,000 Facebook users’ signatures on a protest petition, Facebook executives apologized and allowed such an opt-out option on the program.

Tensions remain between making a profit and alienating Facebook’s users, who the company says total about 64 million worldwide (MySpace has an estimated 110 million monthly active users).

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