Facebook is hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, and this could be enough to turn you off the social network for good. We look at the reasons behind this, and explain how to permanently delete or temporarily delete Facebook if you decide to go ahead.

Why are people deleting Facebook?

Cambridge Analytica is a company that combines consumer data with behavioural science to allow for highly targeted marketing. It stands accused that, over the past two years, it has exploited the data associated with 50 million Facebook profiles without their owners' knowledge.

This was made possible using a personality test app created by Global Science Research that went viral on the social network. It paid US Facebook members to take part, but in return it collected not only their own personal data but those of their friends. (See how to stop your friends sharing your Facebook data.)

This data was then sold on to Cambridge Analytica, which it used to build software that could predict and influence their voting choices through highly targeted advertising. It has been claimed that it was a factor in Donald Trump's success.

People are understandably annoyed that Facebook has allowed their data to be manipulated in such a fashion and without their knowledge, and they aren't happy with how it has handled the scandal. Rather than apologising, it claimed it wasn't a data breach and it had done nothing wrong - some very poor PR.

Vice-president Andrew Bosworth tweeted: “People chose to share their data with third-party apps and if those third-party apps did not follow the data agreements with us/users it is a violation. No systems were infiltrated, no passwords or information were stolen or hacked.”

Meanwhile, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said nothing.

This loss of trust in Facebook reminds harks back to the early days of the social network's existence, when Zuckerberg told his Harvard friends that he was surprised by how easy it was to get people to give him their data. “People just submitted it... I don’t know why... They 'trust me'... dumb fucks," Zuckerberg wrote in an instant message.

Though Zuckerberg now claims to have matured and apologises for the earlier messages, people are not convinced he can be trusted with the personal data of the 2 billion people who use the network.

Should I delete Facebook?

Has Facebook gone too far for you to trust? Before you hit delete, you should know that the social network is taking steps to make it easier for people to see what data they're sharing. However, it has also confirmed that it can track you even if you delete your account.

“When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account. This is because other apps and sites don’t know who is using Facebook,” said Facebook's product management director, David Baser.

That data includes IP addresses, browser and operating system information, the address of the website or app, cookies and device identifiers, and is used to enhance the company's service and security.

Whether or not you decide to go ahead and delete Facebook is entirely a personal decision, though the number of users turning away from the social network may in itself make it a less appealing place to be: fewer members may equal fewer friends.

But for those who remain Facebook remains one of the most popular communication tools. Shutting yourself off from its network may be akin to closing down communication with those people.

It's possible to avoid giving your data to third-party apps, and to lock down your profile. But if you don't trust Facebook itself with your personal data, you may question your decision to continue handing it over.

If you are going to switch off due to privacy concerns, remember that Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, so you might wish to delete all three. But also keep in mind that Facebook is far from the only online company that collects your data.

How to permanently delete Facebook

  • Be aware that permanent deletion of your Facebook account cannot be undone
  • If you're 100 percent sure, visit the Delete Account page in your web browser
  • Click 'Delete my account'

Delete Facebook

How to temporarily disable Facebook

A better alternative for those who aren't entirely sure they'll never want to come back to Facebook is to disable their account. This way they won't lose any of their stuff, such as contacts and photos.

  • Log into Facebook in your browser
  • Tap the down arrow at the top right of the page and choose Settings
  • Click Edit next to 'Manage account'
  • Click 'Deactivate your account' at the bottom of the page
  • Enter your Facebook password
  • Give a reason for leaving, tick the Email Opt-out button, then click Deactivate
  • You can re-enable your account at any point by signing into Facebook

Deactivate Facebook

Before you go: How to download Facebook data

If you want to keep the information and data on your Facebook account before you delete it, you can download everything as an archive onto your computer. Facebook can download the posts, photos and videos you've shared, your messages and chat conversations, information from the About section of your profile, and more.

  • Log into Facebook in your browser
  • Tap the down arrow at the top right of the page and choose Settings
  • On the main General Account Settings page click the link at the bottom to 'Download a copy of your Facebook data'
  • Click 'Start my Archive'

Download Facebook Data

Read next: Most common Facebook scams and How to secure Facebook

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