Does deleting a photo that you’ve posted online actually remove it from the internet?
These days most people are aware that they need to be cautious when deciding what photos to post on the internet. Although it might seem like a good idea to share a particular image today, you may decide you want to delete it later, however once that photo is online it is actually very hard to remove it again.
If you tend to post your photos on a private platform, then you have a lot less to worry about. Depending on the service you use, there is a chance that once you delete an image or a video from your own account, it will still be stored in a server somewhere, but the chance of it appearing to the public is minuscule. The problem tends to arise if you’re publishing photos in a public space, such as a blog or forum. Websites and search engines store a cache of web pages in order to increase the speed of their service. Caching comes into action when you return to a web page you’ve looked at previously; instead of loading it from the original server your browser can get it from the cache, saving you time and the network the burden of some additional traffic. If your image was on a page that has been cached, deleting it from the original source will not necessarily prevent it from being returned when someone loads that page. Unfortunately there is little you can do to remove these pages from a cache, and as they can long outlast the original sites from which they were created, it means there is little you can do to prevent people from accessing your image.
The Wayback Machine is a website that allows you to browse through over 240 billion web pages archived from 1996 up to present day. A huge amount of those 240 billion web pages probably don’t even exist at source anymore, but you can still access them without difficulty because they have been stored, unchanged, in various caches.
As with all online content, eventually it will become more obscure, more difficult to locate. Over 3 billion photos are uploaded to Facebook alone every day. This means that eventually a search will be unlikely to return your image, but it still doesn’t mean you can be certain the image has completely disappeared. If you looked hard enough, you may still stumble across a cached page that contains your photo – so always think carefully before you post anything in a public space, as you may never be able to get it back.