Facebook Has a Zombie Photo Problem

Ars Technica published an interesting story today about how photos uploaded to Facebook remain on their servers months — or even years — after they’re “deleted” from the service. We decided to test this out ourselves, uploading the above photo to Facebook, copying the direct URL to the image file, and then deleting both the photo and the album. As you can see from the hotlinked photo above, the image continues to live on as a zombie photo on Facebook’s CDN servers.

We decided to test out Flickr as well. Here’s the hotlinked image from Flickr’s servers after the photo was “deleted”:

At the time of this posting, both images can still be accessed. If you can’t see either of the photos and no one has reported it in the comments, please leave a comment so we can track how long these zombie files remain. It’ll be interesting to see how long “deletion” takes for these two services.

Do you think this issue is as serious as the other Facebook issues that have been discussed quite a bit in the comments of previous posts?

Update: The Flickr photo seems to be unavailable now 10-15 minutes after it was deleted.

Update: The Facebook image was finally removed. A commenter reported it on February 27th, 2011, but it might have happened sooner. Took about four months.

Image credit: zombie toys! by massdistraction

  • Anonymous

    Flickr photo is deleted now.

  • Alex || Blende 3

    flickr shows “this photo is currently unavailable”.

  • Joshuanoble

    Flickr image has been deleted.

  • DreadPirateAmy

    The Flickr photo is gone.

  • Whit Scott

    Now I just want to sit here refreshing to see how long it takes them to go away.

    By the way, contrary to what everyone else is saying, I still see both photos.

  • Heather G.

    Flickr is gone, Facebook remains.

  • loki_popinjay

    Flickr one is unavailable now …

  • Lance Ingle

    Facebook is still there Flickr is gone

  • Josh Ladella

    I don’t see the flickr one

  • far han

    thats funny, coz i can see the flickr image. =S

  • Gustavo Pugliesi Sachs

    the flickr is already down….

  • Jack Barber

    The flickr image was unavailable at 23:19 (BST) 11/10/2010

  • David
  • David Howland

    Both are still there for me.

  • Michael Zhang

    Interesting. Looks like some people can still see the Flickr image while most people can’t.

    No one seems to be reporting that the Facebook photo is gone though…

  • Alicia

    I can still see the flickr photo.

  • Anonymous


    it’s 22:20 GMT on Oct 11 and Flickr photo is gone

  • Daniel

    The image will probably disappear for different people at different times as the CDN processes the deletion through the global network.

  • Michael Zhang

    Ah the Flickr photo is gone for me as well now. Took about 10-15 minutes.

  • Flatbush Gardener

    Flickr gone, Facebook still there.

  • La Fantastische

    I can’t see the Flickr picture, and couldn’t see it 10 minutes ago when I got linked here. The FB one is still there though ..

  • Okta A Rompas

    The zombies are still alive,
    …the flicker photo is gone

  • Jacob

    I think the reason the Flickr photo was gone for some people, is because Flickr hosts photos on multiple different servers I think? So when it tried to access it from one server it was already deleted, or something like that. (My knowledge of how the internet works is limited, so this could be very wrong)

  • Tom Roes

    Can’t see the Flickr nor the Facebook photo. (Amsterdam, Holland)

  • Tom Roes

    Sorry, refreshed and the FB photo is back… Oops.

  • popmonkey

    refresh your cache

  • popmonkey

    hello – browser caching :)

  • Michael Zhang

    It was showing despite clearing the cache, etc… Looked like it was a CDN thing or something

  • Rami

    Flickr is gone. Facebook is still here.

  • Mohsin

    But the facebook book, isn’t pointing to facebook url ???

  • Michael Zhang
  • Age

    Although the Flickr photo is gone, when I hover over it, it still gives me the title of the picture. Is that because it is “currently unavailable” when it really should be “cannot be found…”? I would think that if it was fully deleted then all the info should be gone.. am I right?

  • Cafard Naum

    Right, no more pic on Flickr !!

  • Brian Turner

    The title is actually not retrieved from Flickr but is embedded within the HTML of this post. Flickr provides all embed codes this way.

  • Teknisyan

    I wonder what are they doing with all those photos that are deleted or do their server knows that those photos are deleted already?

  • Polliwog81

    1 week later and I still see the FB photo…

  • Guesty McGuesterson

    over 2 weeks later, the facebook photo still remains.

  • Penguin

    10/28/10 and the facebook photo is still there.

  • Age

    12/9/10 Facebook photo still there

  • LE_Gui

    December 26th 2010, FB photo still here.

  • Ilp_daniel

    Jan 9th, 2011. FB photo still there.

  • LE_Gui

    Jan 30th, 2011. FB photo still there.

  • Philip W├Âlfel

    Feb. 27th, 2011 FB photo isn’t displaying any more!

  • Michael Zhang

    Thanks for catching it!

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