Yahoo's Flickr has implemented a change to its policy on deleted accounts. The photo sharing website will now keep photos and associated content for 90 days before erasing them for good.
When you upload a photo, Flickr creates multiple copies of it, along with any data on tags, groups or sets you specified on upload, stored on multiple machines in multiple locations across the US. Previously, if you or the company decided to delete your account, Flickr deleted your photos immediately, making the decision to close an account almost irreversible.
The 90 day delay for deleted content, including the photos, metadata, comments, and all the bits of an account, means the data is no longer available publicly but is kept on Flickr's servers, just in case you want to restore it. Although privacy activists will certainly voice their concerns, Flickr insists that all data is made private and kept secure. Furthermore, the company emphasizes that this change of policy only exists to help users protect their photos and give them the option to reverse their decision.
Three months ago, we wrote about how Yahoo accidentally deleted a Flickr account with 4,000 pictures, belonging to German photographer Mirco Wilhelm. Flickr staff mixed up a fraudulent account Wilhelm reported with Wilhelm's. Thankfully, Yahoo managed to restore everything, but that was likely because Wilhelm quickly noticed and guessed what the mistake was and demanded it be fixed.
The Flickr FAQ has been updated accordingly, under the "I deleted my account/My account is deleted. Can I get it back?" section:
When an account is deleted, the content including the photos, metadata, comments, and everything else will stay on the servers for 90 days, but is no longer publicly accessible. After that period, we erase it from our servers, ensuring a clean wipe of your information. If an account is reactivated within 90 days of deletion, the content will still be in the account when it is restored.
If you deleted your account yourself you can write in and, if we can verify you as the account owner, we can restore the account. If it has been less than 90 days, the content of the account will also be restored.
If your account is deleted/inactive but you didn't delete it, it's likely that it was deleted for violating the Flickr Community Guidelines and/or Yahoo! Terms of Service. Accounts in violation of the Community Guidelines will not be reactivated. Before deleting an account we review the content and activity against the Community Guidelines and delete only when that is the appropriate action according to our policies. However, if you believe that your account was deleted in error you can write to us using Help by Email.
We'd wager that Wilhelm's story was the main motivation for Flickr's policy change. Sometimes you just have to smack someone in the face to wake them up.