Make These 4 Changes Before You Delete Any Online Account

Akshata Shanbhag 09-09-2014

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 4 Solid Ways To Get The Best Of The Web The Web is a a gigantic labyrinth. If this digital minefield leaves you overwhelmed and anxious, adopting the following simple mantras can act as a tonic and help you manage your Web space better. Read More .

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 Should You Think Twice Before Logging In Using Social Accounts? Read More 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 How to Download Your Gmail MBOX Data and What to Do With It It's easy to download a copy of your Gmail data using Google Takeout. Here's what you can do with this backup of your emails. Read More  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 Grey Mail: The New Email Nuisance To Hit Your Inbox Spam has been the bane of email for a long time, but I'd be lying if I said my inbox was full of spam nowadays - it isn't. Filters and worldwide anti-spam networks cut it... Read More 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

Related topics: Email Tips, Online Security.

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  1. Yogita A
    September 30, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Great points t keep in mind. @Akshata

    Take proper data backup is something that is most important, I guess.

    • Akshata
      October 2, 2014 at 1:21 am

      Absolutely, Yogita. At least some services present you with multiple popups to give you a chance to change your mind or download data you might have forgotten to. But some of them just delete your account right away.

  2. S. Simon
    September 10, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    There is a site called Nameckcom where you can enter your user name and it display apps (mostly social apps) that you signed up for previously.

    So, if you're closing down from some sites, this may be helpful by showing some yo may have forgotten.

    Great article ~ it provided some "ah hah" thoughts; suggestions that people (including myself!) might not even realize.

    • Akshata
      September 10, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      Good thinking, Simon. We only think of sites like NameChk while signing up for websites. It does make sense to use them for better website recall while deleting accounts.

      And thank you :)

  3. Bud
    September 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks for your reply Akshata. As for Cloud? "No way Jose!" Just another avenue for NSA snoops or others to access info. Need a "Cloud storage?" Buy an external hard drive with plenty of GB's or TB's as the costs are falling ever-so rapidly. I've adopted the late President Ronal Reagan's philosophy during the Salt II meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev in Iceland, back in the 80's. When Gorbachev's famous Russian quote was translated for Reagan, "TRUST, BUT VERIFY, Reagan repeated it and said, "I like that !" Now when it comes to the net, my paranoia is such that I don't trust most stuff online, but do my best to discern what is true and factual and not a lot of bovine feces. :)))

    • Godel
      September 10, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      @ Bud There's very little information that you need to store that's TRULY personal. It's easy to encrypt this stuff with something like Boxcryptor or Cloudfogger before sending it to the cloud. Even the usual archival programs such as 7Zip provide high level encryption as an option.

      Cloud storage provides a geographically separate option that local backup can not, useful in the case of floods, fire tornadoes etc.

  4. Bud
    September 10, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Good points and suggestions here. Unfortunately with the ever-increasing data collections by many sites, and even more unscrupulous sites that buy lists of email addresses, the ever-increasing amounts of spam and porno emails are never-ending. I've found that if I'm tired and need to take a nap or break from being online, my chances of making mistakes increases many folds. Common sense and a few cups of "brain-juice (coffee)" can help. :)))

    Like others, I've 'accidentally' deleted things on my former PC and now on my Mac that I've regretted, but soon learn that I can and do survive without it. Especially now that I'm retired and don't need to worry about if it was related to work.

    • Akshata
      September 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      Thank you!
      Like you I have learned that all that accidentally deleted data was not really as important as I thought it was. That has helped me reduce my cloud storage needs from unlimited to 1GB or so.
      And you're right, Bud. No matter what precautions we take, we're probably the people with the least control over our data :)

  5. Hildy J
    September 9, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Two suggestions about personal data:

    1) Change your password
    2) When you change your email, use a disposable email account rather than one you "don't use often"

    • Akshata
      September 10, 2014 at 4:19 am

      Good points, Hildy. Thanks!

      I use a disposable email account (33mail) myself, but I have sometimes found it unreliable and have to keep blocking/unblocking the same stuff. So I ended up having a separate inbox to redirect all those unwanted emails :) Which disposable email service do you use?

    • Aman A
      September 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      hi akshata , i use a firefox addon, named " mask me" much better

    • Akshata
      September 10, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      It turns out Mask me is available for Chrome users too. I'll check that out. Thanks for the tip, Aman.