Having too many digital accounts raises your risk of data being misused or stolen. Here’s how to clean house.
Deleting online accounts is one of the best ways to protect your data security and privacy. The less data you have stored on corporate databases scattered across the internet, the safer you are from the misuse of personal information.
To improve your data security, you don’t need to stop using your favorite apps and services. Start by getting rid of accounts that you no longer care about.
A number of essentially defunct platforms, such as Myspace and the recently shut down Google+, have suffered data breaches that affected tens of millions of users who may not have used the platforms in years.
Data breaches that compromise old accounts can lead to identity theft, says Justin Brookman, director of privacy and technology policy for Consumer Reports.
And if you’re no longer using a company’s service, there’s little reason to let it continue to store and potentially monetize your information, he adds.
Unfortunately, some services hold onto your information even after you close an account, but it’s still a smart move to shut down the public-facing access to your data once your relationship with a company is over.
When you’re ready to exorcise those ghosts of internet past, you can follow the directions below for a number of once-popular services.
We also include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms that you might want to quit, despite their continuing popularity.
A number of services let you download personal information, such as posts and photos, before pulling the plug.
And if you’re having trouble remembering all the accounts you created, then abandoned, follow the process laid out in CR’s guide to finding old accounts.
Unless specified otherwise, the instructions below are for a desktop browser, but the steps are usually similar on a phone.
But if you’ve had enough, there are some details to consider. For one, many people use their Facebook account to log in to other platforms, so you may need to change your credentials on outside services first.
(We have more information on quitting Facebook here.) The platform says it won’t actually start the process until 30 days after you click delete, and it may take up to 90 days for your information to disappear.
To delete your Facebook account: Click the down arrow in the top right > Settings > Your Facebook Information > Delete Your Account and Information > Delete Account > Type in your password to confirm > Delete Account.
Facebook owns Instagram. The two platforms share consumer data for targeted advertising, and Facebook has used Instagram photos to train its facial recognition and artificial intelligence software.
You can adjust your Instagram privacy settings using the mobile app, but if you want to delete your Instagram account altogether you’ll need to open a web browser.
To delete your Instagram account: Navigate to the Delete Your Account page > Choose a reason why you’re deleting your account > Enter your password > Permanently delete my account.
LinkedIn collects and uses consumer data for targeted advertising. Check out our guide to LinkedIn privacy settings, or, if you decide to jettison your relationship with the networking site, follow the directions below.
To delete your LinkedIn account: Click your profile avatar in the top right corner > Settings and privacy > Account > Closing your Linkedin account > Select a reason why you’re deciding to close your account and click Next > Type in your password to confirm.
Pinterest is a popular platform for sharing visual ideas on everything from home remodeling to crafts. If you decide to delete your account, follow the steps below.
Note that “deactivating” your account leaves the data on Pinterest’s servers, but your information won’t be visible to other users. Deleting your accounts takes additional steps.
Once you get the ball rolling, you’ll need to wait 14 days before your account is actually deleted.
To delete your Pinterest account: Click the icon with the three dots in the top right corner > Edit settings > Deactivate Account > Permanently close my account > Yes, send the email > Head to your email to find a confirmation message > In the confirmation email, click “Yes, close account.”
Snapchat exploded in popularity after launching its disappearing-photo-and-message service, and for a time it seemed to pose an existential threat to Facebook.
The app is still widely used, but it has hemorrhaged a few million users in the past year. You can’t delete your account from the mobile app, but the process is simple if you use a web browser.
You’ll need to wait 30 days before the account disappears.
To delete your Snapchat account: Head to the Delete Your Account portal in a browser > Enter your username and password > Continue.
Tweets have been sent from the White House, every continent, and even the International Space Station, but wherever you’re logging in, it can be difficult to insulate yourself from the platform’s trolls.
Whether you want to turn your back on them or just cut down on your social media habit, it’s easy to delete your Twitter account. You’ll have to wait 30 days for the data to disappear.
To delete your Twitter account: Click your profile avatar and select Settings and privacy from the menu > From the Account tab, select Deactivate your account > Deactivate > Enter your password to confirm > Deactivate.
The encrypted messaging service, which is owned by Facebook, is home to over a billion users worldwide.
Immigrants and travelers have long used it to keep in touch with friends and family overseas, but it recently has been in the news for connections to ethnic violence in Myanmar and illegal pornography in India and elsewhere.
WhatsApp is a phone-based platform, so you need to use your mobile device if you want to delete your account.
To delete your WhatsApp account: Click the menu button in the top right corner > Settings > Account > Delete my account > Enter your phone number to confirm > Delete my account.
Google owns YouTube, and your Google account can double as a YouTube channel, which lets you create playlists, keep track of videos you’ve liked, and view a history of what you’ve watched and searched for.
You don’t need a channel to use YouTube, though—you can delete it to limit data collection while keeping your Google account, and then get back to your favorite Ariana Grande videos in just a couple of minutes.
To delete your YouTube channel: Click your person-shaped logo in the top right corner (it may also appear as the first letter of your name, or a portrait if you’ve uploaded a picture) > Settings > Advanced Settings > Delete Channel > Verify your password > I want to permanently delete my content > Check the box and click “Delete My Content” > Enter your email address to confirm.
The list is longer than posted here and you can get more tips here