Three Reasons You Should Delete Your Old Online Accounts

April 8, 2022

How much do your outdated and likely forgotten online accounts reveal about you? What kind of data do they store? If you’ve been an active user of social media, online shopping, or other online services over the past decade, you likely have old accounts that you no longer use but still contain your personal information. Each of these accounts could be a vulnerability for you if the service is the victim of a data breach. Strong cyber hygiene dictates that we delete old accounts so they cannot reveal information we want kept private.

Three key reasons you should identify and delete your old accounts are to

1) protect your personally identifiable information (PII),

2) protect your usernames and passwords, and

3) protect your reputation.

Protect Your PII

PII can be used by cyber criminals to commit identity theft and fraud, as well as gain access to your various accounts. For example, old accounts on MySpace, Google Plus, FourSquare, Flickr, etc. were created years ago when many people were not as privacy-conscious as they are today, and those platforms lacked robust privacy settings to limit information sharing when they were first introduced. It may be very simple for someone to get significant PII from these accounts, such as your date of birth, address, or family connections. They can use this PII to carry out a variety of crimes, such as making purchases, opening other accounts in your name, or selling your PII to other parties. Additionally, information you may have posted on old profiles can provide clues for a bad actor to answer the security questions when attempting to access your other accounts.

Protect Usernames and Passwords

All online accounts are vulnerable to data breaches – none are impenetrable. But you can take steps to limit the impact across your other accounts if one is breached. For example, if a bad actor learns your username and password for an old account through a data breach, and you use the same credentials across other accounts, those accounts are also compromised. Take the breach in 2020: the alcohol delivery app suffered a data breach exposing the email addresses, birthdays, encrypted passwords, and addresses of 2.5 million users. If any Drizly user used the same login credentials across multiple platforms/websites/services, their other accounts became suddenly insecure. Deleting accounts you don’t need means there are fewer opportunities for your information to be breached.

Protect Your Reputation

Online accounts, particularly social media profiles, can show thousands of your posts that discuss your personal opinions, ideas, and activities. There may be even posts you’ve forgotten about from years ago that, if misperceived, could be embarrassing. Whether you’re applying to schools, searching for a new job, leading a company, and so on, consider how your public posts on old profiles may reflect on you.

What You Can Do About It

You must first find your old accounts before you can delete them. Look through your password manager’s credentials (if you use one), go through your email inbox, and check your Facebook, Google, and Twitter accounts to see which apps are connected to them. Once you have a list of your old accounts, use a search engine to find instructions to delete each account. If needed, visit the site’s support website, check the privacy policy, or directly contact the platform to ask how to delete your account. If there’s an account you aren’t actively using but anticipate needing in the near future, consider temporarily deactivating the account rather than fully deleting it if the platform offers that option.

If you are looking for assistance in identifying and managing your online accounts, contact Red5 to help navigate this process.

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