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OK, you've deleted Facebook, but is your data still out there?

Zuckerberg on Facebook's "biggest mistake"
Mark Zuckerberg opens up about "biggest mistake" in wake of data scandal 20:06

Will a meaningful number of people actually #DeleteFacebook? There's no way to know.

But the mini-movement -- which now includes Cher -- raises another question: If you do delete your Facebook account, what happens to your personal information?

Facebook says it keeps "backup copies for a reasonable period of time" after a deletion, and it says that can be as long as three months.

It also says it may retain copies of "some material" from deleted accounts, but removes personal identifiers. 

Facebook has two types of databases of user content, according to Paul-Olivier Dehaye, co-founder of PersonalData.IO, a service that helps consumers track their data.

One collects user-generated content, such as status updates and photos.

The other is for log data -- a record of what a user does, such as when they log in, click on a Facebook group or post a comment.

"When you delete your account, all the user generated content is normally erased (although there are small exceptions), while all the log data is preserved – forever." The preserved log data won't have your name attached to it.

One catch: Data about consumers posted by friends and family members will remain with the service as long as they remain on the social-media service, according to Facebook's Help Center. "Keep in mind that information that others have shared about you is not part of your account and will not be deleted when you delete your account," Facebook says in its data policy. 

For example, messages you've sent to a friend on Facebook would remain stored on Facebook's computers, the company said.

The after-life of data, it seems, isn't as clear-cut as consumers might hope. 

Does Facebook mishandle your personal information online? 10:52

Data harvested by apps

At the same time, consumers have plenty of questions about what happened to the data harvested by Cambridge Analytica.  

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday pledged a "full forensic audit" to ensure all data had been deleted.

He also said he would limit the data available to developers. "For example, we will remove developers' access to your data if you haven't used their app in 3 months," Zuckerberg wrote.

Nevertheless, it's unclear how much control Facebook has over user data once a company like Cambridge Analytica acquires it. 

Facebook's rules say that developers must delete data if a consumer asks them. However, many consumers may be unaware they need to take this additional step after deleting their Facebook accounts. And it's unclear how that policy is enforced.

In a 2015 speech, Carol Davidsen -- a former Obama campaign official -- talked about harvesting data from Facebook users about their friends.

"We were able to ingest the entire social network of the U.S. on Facebook, which is most of the U.S.," she said. "The data is out there. You can't take it back. The Democrats have this information, so when they look at a voter file, they can say, 'Here are all the people they know.'"

Download before deleting

Before deleting your account, you can download your personal data and save it on your own computer. The data includes your Facebook personal messages, photos, status updates and which advertisers have your contact info, among other data points. 

Zuckerberg said Facebook will add a tool at the top of users' news feed that shows them which apps have access to their data, and how to revoke those permissions. 

"I'm serious about doing what it takes to protect our community," Zuckerberg wrote. "I know it takes longer to fix all these issues than we'd like, but I promise you we'll work through this and build a better service over the long term."

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