NOTE: This article is long deprecated! I'm keeping it for archival/historical reasons but it hasn't been working for the last 2 Facebook redesigns. If you wish to recover your messages, you should contact Facebook directly. Thank you.
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Facebook & Deleted Messages

first published on June, 20th 2008

We have a saying in Portuguese that literally translated says something like "where there's smoke, there is fire!". We all heard about the Conspiracy Theories around Facebook, that include CIA, NASA, NSA, ICANHAS [1], etc... I never bought into any of those and I still hold to the opinion that if any of those agencies want your information... they'll get it and they don't really need Facebook. We've also heard how, historically, some really interesting and even revolutionary findings have been done by accident... So this is one of those accidents!

As I was cleaning up some old browser bookmarks, I came across one oddly named "conversation10". I vaguely remember bookmarking a Facebook conversation thread a while back for reasons I don't even remember, but I have since then, deleted that whole thread/conversation from my Facebook messages. To my surprise, when I opened the bookmark I got the following screen on Facebook:

Facebook & Deleted Messages
(click to open full sized image on Flickr)

Clicking the link on that screen, I got the whole conversation with up-to-date profile pictures and all. Obviously, there is only one explanation for that: Facebook doesn't really delete anything. Now think of your embarrassing photos/messages that you thought you had deleted... They're possibly still hosted somewhere!!

After finding this, I searched the web to investigate wether this was a known "feature" or not. Every search result led to someone asking how they could recover their deleted messages, and the answers all indicated that "No, you cannot." To be honest, you can't really recover them unless you saved the thread ID from the URL. But if you still have that conversation in your browser's history, you can easily get that by just adding "&show_del=1" to the end of the URL! Another way is by opening the old thread page and clicking the link as the one on the screenshot above.

So, this is neither revolutionary nor extremely useful, but it adds up to all the Facebook Conspiracy Theories out there [2]... It gets weirder when you check Facebook's official help docs:

Q: I accidentally deleted a message. Can I get it back?
A: There is no way to recover messages that have been deleted. Sorry.

Is Facebook just being mean or don't they want the world to know about it? In other news, I'm still using Facebook and I'll keep using it! If I put something online, I'm perfectly aware it might get cached somewhere, making me unable to completely remove it from the internet.

But that's me…

  1. Okay okay, not all of those... All I heard about was CIA, but doesn't it make it look so much scary when you see all those listed?? :D And you gotta admit the LOLcat in there was really well placed & linked… Right? ;)
  2. Anyone got links or videos on those existing theories? They'd be a nice addition to this post... ;)