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Closing an online account? Wait! There’s something you need to do first.
While surfing the Web, it’s second nature to register on various websites in order to gain access to a variety of services, features, and goodies. Once the mystery is solved, you move on to something newer and shinier, leaving behind a trail of unused accounts. Get rid of clutter like that for a better digital life.
Before you set about closing all unwanted accounts, follow the steps outlined below. They’ll help ensure that you won’t be going “Uh-oh” after you erase some of your online identities.
Check For Dependencies
Many services allow you to use your Google, Twitter, or Facebook credentials to log into their site. Some of them bypass email-based registration altogether and insist on using these popular services for sign ups. For example, to create an account on Medium, a publishing platform, you need a Twitter or Facebook account.
Also, some services are designed to connect multiple accounts and modify their data from a single dashboard. IFTTT is a case in point. You can use IFTTT to post updates from your blog to Facebook, sync documents between Dropbox and Google Drive, etc.
In both these cases, deleting the base account (Twitter/Facebook/IFTTT) means giving up the secondary benefits too. If you deactivate Twitter or Facebook, you can no longer use Medium. If you give up IFTTT, you’ll not be able to update Facebook/Google Drive automatically unless you find an alternative.
Are you okay with scenarios like these? If your answer is no, save that base account.
When you connect external apps and widgets to any of your accounts, you’re asked to grant various permissions to read and modify your data. Before you proceed with account deletion, unlink those add-ons by revoking app permissions, to cut off access to your data. Of course, logging into a third-party site using your social account is not without its negatives in the first place. Read Dann’s post on the risks of the OAuth protocol to understand what you’re getting into.
Hold On To Your Data
When you sign up for a service, you don’t think twice about uploading your data to it. Photos, videos, music, documents, etc. that belong to you get stored on the servers of those services. Once you delete the account associated with that data, poof! All of it disappears into thin air and it’s rare that you have the option to recover it.
I have lost some crucial documents thanks to impulsive deletion of accounts. You stay smart and download your data before closing an account. Even if you no longer need the data, delete it instead of leaving it floating around. That includes everything from your documents to your credit card details to your physical address.
Change Your Account Details
Isn’t it irritating to find that that cool-sounding username you were eager to snag is already taken?
Some services have the policy of locking the username, and sometimes the email, associated with a deleted account. This means that no one, and that includes you, can recreate an account with that username. This is troublesome if you plan to use that service again. Even if you don’t, it’s a good idea to make your current username available to potential users. Change it to something gibberish and replace the email associated with it to one you don’t use often. That way, if you wish to, you can still go back and set up a new account with your usual email address. For most services you’ll still need to verify the email change. Ensure that you take care of it before hitting DELETE.
You can muddle up your personal details similarly for services that don’t allow you to close your account.
Manage Your Active Subscriptions
In many cases, even after you cancel your account from a service, you’ll continue to receive emails from them, in the form of updates, offers, newsletters, etc. I’m guessing that you don’t need all of that in your inbox. Unsubscribe! You can always do it after the deletion process, but why wait for annoying grey mail to clutter your inbox before taking action on it.
Also, do remember to cancel any paid subscriptions you have signed up for.
You’re Now Ready To Hit Delete
When you think of closing an online account, you’re mainly concerned about locating the required option and clicking on it. In my eagerness to get rid of digital clutter, I have hit big, red Delete buttons with gusto, only to discover that I lost some important data or benefit in the process. Don’t let that happen to you. Use the steps described here as a checklist before you bid goodbye to some part of your digital life.
Is there anything else that needs attention lest it cause an “Oops” moment after deleting an online account? Share it in the comments.
Image Credit: Featured image is a derivative of Finger pointing at delete via Shutterstock