Facebook might be one of the most popular websites on the planet - the vocal "It used to be so much better" cries of disillusioned users only emphasise that. But we wonder if the 64 million people posting there about their personal lives know how difficult it is to leave the social-networking phenomenon.

As users unhappy with floods of useless invitations to join even more pointless online activities on the site are discovering, deleting a Facebook profile isn't just a simple matter of closing the account.

Backup servers

The problem centres on the fact that Facebook merely suspends an account after a user decides to leave. Accordingly, all data, whether it's photographs, messages or credit card details, is kept on company servers ready to be reactivated should the user decide to return.

So serious is the problem being taken, there's even a Facebook group called 'How to permanently delete your Facebook account' that explains the steps needed to really remove the potentially sensitive information.

Manual solution

The gist of the guidelines is that departing users need to painstakingly remove every last piece of data they posted before closing their accounts, then to contact Facebook and ask for a permanent account deletion.

The group's founder, Magnus Wallin, explains: "Delete everything that is related to your profile. That includes, but is not limited to: pictures, friends, messages, wall-posts, mini-feeds, news-feeds, posted items, interests, groups, applications, gifts... etc, etc, etc... Get the picture? EVERYTHING!"

Given the amount of negative publicity Facebook is currently receiving as it groans under the weight of new members, we can't see that cumbersome process surviving much longer. Our money's on a big, red 'Erase Me Now' button appearing on the sign-out page within weeks.