How many online accounts have you got? Note the question is not how many do you use regularly, but how many have you got? Ten? Fifty? A hundred? You might be surprised at how high the number is when you start totting everything up.
Metal security lock from Shutterstock
So, having pondered that question, here’s another - do you really need all the accounts you have? Chances are you don’t, and in fact it is highly likely that there are accounts you have forgotten you even opened.
We all do it, but having online accounts that we don’t use is not a good idea. They’re not just clutter. They might actually be doing you a disservice – or waiting to do you one. So why not have a spring clean.
Why delete online accounts?
To reduce the likelihood of being hacked. The more accounts you have online the higher your chances of being hacked. It’s just the law of averages. And if you share passwords between accounts (go on, admit it, you do) the compromising of one account could lead to the compromising of more.
Because accounts become redundant. Two years ago you might have been a major user of a particular blogging service or online store, but they’ve fallen from favour. The account you have is performing no useful function for you. Though it is possibly waiting to be hacked or allowing your contact details to be passed to other people if you failed to tick the right boxes when signing up, or generated unwanted news updates in your inbox.
To protect your online identity. Oh, dear, that social sharing site you used when you were younger really isn’t you any more. The photos are embarrassing, and some of the things you said. Ugh! You really wouldn't want any prospective employer to see them.
You can probably think of other reasons why you, personally, might want to delete accounts. Great. Now for the next challenge…. deleting them.
It's not always easy
Some internet accounts are easier to remove than others.
Suppose you have a Blogger account that you no longer want or use. Don’t even think about trying to delete it unless you are happy to ditch your entire Google account. The two are way too connected to lose the former without also dropping the latter. You can delete your blogs, though.
It is also impossible to fully delete a Wordpress account. You can remove your blog and edit account information so that it’s either gobbledygook or so that key data about you is removed. But the account remains.
Facebook on the other hand does allow for account deletion. And if you aren’t sure you really want to go it lets you deactivate your account instead. The difference? Deactivate accounts are not visible to other Facebook users but you can reactivate your account if you want to. Deleted accounts are gone forever. You can’t get back to them.
And so it goes on. Some accounts are very easy to delete, with the process made clear online and a guarantee that all the data which is stored about you will be removed. Others are more difficult, some even require you to email an individual rather than complete the whole process online.
It can be a bit daunting to start thinking about deleting online accounts when you already know it can be pretty difficult and take time. Fortunately there are some very useful shortcuts in the shape of web sites that provide no end of help with deleting accounts.
Your friendly online helpers
Several web sites exist just to help you get through the difficulties of deleting accounts. Here are two we really like:
- http://justdelete.me. A well designed site with colour coding that indicates whether it is easy, hard or impossible to delete an account. You can search for sites, see a popular sites list, or browse A to Z. Pick a site and you can click through to it as well as see a little summary of how easy/hard it is to delete your account or what you can/can’t delete.
- Account Killer. The most popular sites are on the home page, and you can search for sites too. Users can even add sites, and the list available is large. Sites are categorised by how easy – or hard – it is to delete accounts. Pick one and you get information and links to info at the site on how to delete. There’s also useful information about third party authorisations – such as those on social sites - which you set up for an increasing number of sites and can consider as part of the deletion process.
Don't set up an account if you don't have to
You don’t always have to set up accounts at sites that offer you the option. At selling sites, for example, it might be tempting to set up an account to remember your address and credit card details because this will make your life that little bit easier when you make purchases. But why do it? If there’s a guest mode you can use that instead. Sure, you’ll have to manually enter details, but your data won’t be stored on some database somewhere that you might not fully trust.
Alternatively create a fake identity. This can be hard to do if you are just sitting trying to think of a made up name, address, date of birth etc. JustDelete.me can help out here – it has a fake identity generator that produces enough info to get you through simple account creation systems and it produces random biog info too.
The bottom line to all this is that online accounts, like so much else, can easily accumulate and become clutter that you don’t need. They also have the potential to be dangerous, perhaps getting hacked or giving away info about you that you’d rather forget. A clean up every now and again is a good thing.
This article originally appeared on Lifehacker UK