Delete long-forgotten digital accounts

Last year I decided to delete all the accounts for websites and apps that I no longer use — long defunct social media apps, productivity nonsense, games, delivery companies, and forums for interests I don't even remember having.

In the end it totalled around 200 accounts — most of them had some logical way of deleting the account — many had absurd dark patterns, or even required emailing the company.

It took a long time. Whenever I was stuck for something to do, I would go through my password manager, choose an account, delete it, and where necessary request the data be deleted.

Why delete old accounts?

Websites change ownership, companies get hacked, and the longer your data is out there the more likely it will end up in the hands of someone with bad intentions. Some of the things that could go wrong are…

If you think this seems paranoid or unlikely take a look at the long list of known data breaches at haveibeenpwned.com and know that in 2023 alone there were 880,418 complaints in the usa to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) — the real number of people effected by such crimes is likely much higher.

These are serious consequences. I'd go so far as saying the potential losses from being a victim of fraud far outweigh the benefits of lubricating your keyholes, or even, dare I say it, rotating your mattress.

How to go about deleting old accounts

Before you can delete old accounts you'll need to know where they are — there are two good sources you can use to find old accounts:

Create a list of accounts you would like to delete – or simply use your password manager as the list.

  1. Choose an account to delete
  2. Attempt to login to the account
  3. If the account still exists, delete the account.
  4. If the data is sensitive, or the website presents no easy way of deleting the account, send a request to have your data deleted. Under EU, UK, and California law companies have to comply with this request — so many will do so.
  5. Remove the account from your password manager — or tick it off your list.
  6. If there are any accounts left, go back to step one, otherwise continue to the next step.
  7. Do something to remind yourself that life is still worth living.