Think you deleted that message about scoring pot from your buddy on Facebook? You might be surprised to find out that no, you didn’t. Quick: smoke now, before the cops show up. I’ll wait.

You cool? Ok, so here’s what a German law student discovered about the information Facebook’s got on you. Not only did he find 1200 printed pages of documentation on himself, but he also discovered messages sent through Facebook which he had “deleted.” Those messages still existed, but were flagged as ‘deleted.’ In other words: while the law student could no longer see the message, anybody else with access to this data could. And he found out that it was all available through a form on the web:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEC-vk9psTw

IdentityBlog – Digital Identity, Privacy, and the Internets Missing Identity Layer.

While I’m not at all immune to paranoia under certain conditions, I’m not inclined to think of this as a show-stopper. The fact is: data such as this is already being collected about you every day. Google Analytics tracks what many would find a frightening amount of information on you just by visiting a website. Now Facebook is as well.

In fact, as we go forward, I’m finding it hard to even accept the idea of some sort of universal data retention law. The sheer volume of data available and shared on a day-to-day basis seems to make the concept impractical, requiring not just Facebook but any owner of any website to delete massive amounts of data on a regular basis or be subject to, dare I say it, “privacy trolls.”

What the article points to, if nothing else, is the lack of understanding we have for what data actually is. You cannot make an educated decision about how your data should be kept private or not without understanding what data actually is and means.