Programmer Michael Devine was looking for a job earlier this year and realized that not all potential employers would appreciate his Facebook posts as much as his friends do. So he wrote a mobile app that allowed him to clean up his potentially off-color and political posts and comments.
"I'm an impulsive guy," Devine said in a recent phone interview with CNET. "I like making people laugh and I also have strong political views. Given that, you can imagine the kinds of things I post on Facebook. So I wanted to clean up my own profile and thought others might want this as well."
Devine's Android app, called Exfoliate, allows you to delete batches of posts based on how long they've been up. For instance, you can have it remove posts that are older than three months and various time periods up to three years. You can clean just your Wall, or also remove posts from friends' Walls. And the kind of content you can select for removal includes your posts, comments and likes.
Facebook wants us to keep all of our content up on the site and is even planning to launch a Timeline feature that will serve as a digital version of "This is Your Life." But Devine says many people don't necessarily want an archive of their spontaneous day-to-day musings, which can ultimately come back to haunt them.
"When you really think about it, it becomes clear that there's actually no reason to leave anything (on Facebook) after a certain point in time because no one sees it or they rarely see it," he said. "It just sits there waiting for someone to see it out of context and then it can cause you trouble."
Devine said more advanced filtering is coming, so people can be more selective about what they choose to remove or keep. For instance, soon you will be able to select specific friends' profiles to include or exclude from a purge.
"So you could run Exfoliate from a friend's page to remove your comments on their Wall right before de-friending them," he said with a fiendish giggle. "It's the ultimate break-up tool!"
"Handling keywords is a tough problem because if I put a comment in the middle of a thread, computationally it would overburden a mobile device to do an analysis of all the content in that thread," Devine said.
Exfoliate users will eventually be able to keep their friends from leaking their comments to the outside world. Devine said he is adding the ability to delete items based on how visible it is. "If you post on a friend's Wall you are at the mercy of their Wall (privacy) settings," he said. "So, if they make comments on their posts visible to the world your comment becomes public."
An iPhone version is expected in a few weeks, according to Devine. The app costs $2.99.
There are a couple of things to remember about Exfoliate. It's a bandwidth hog, so you would want to let it run for a few hours when it is plugged in at home on your Wi-Fi network.
And the actions are permanent. There's no changing your mind and restoring the data. So, think before you purge.
Update Nov. 15 at 12:58 p.m. PT Here is CNET's How-to article on using Exfoliate.