The coming of the cyber-age has brought some fantastic benefits and tools to enhance our lives but using them can often lead to everyday disadvantages such as spam email, forgotten passwords and most important user data retention through online accounts. How many of you can list all the accounts you’ve had to create online to get access to a service or product? I’d suspect none of you. In fact, most of us couldn’t count them on our fingers and toes, five times over. Whilst most of these accounts are harmless, some are a cause for concern…but how do you cancel your accounts…? Read on…
Before we tackle the question of “how” it’s worth noting the reasoning behind closing your unwanted accounts. These days we are forced to sign up to use anything other than a basic information website – user accounts are not just helpful to associate a user profile with a person but are also used by the website owners to track your habits, or to collect your contact details for which they can use to contact you. Very rarely is this form of contact actually helpful. A staggering 78% of emails transmitted are spam of sorts – of this, some are of course unsolicited spammers but a large majority are ones which unbeknown to the user, were requested via an online account.
If your account has information such as browsed images, products or topics within the website
(which could be very personal to an individual) there is very little stopping that website using the data for their own research purposes, or selling it to 3rd parties to send you advertising emails. This may sound harmless but what about the instance with Google, Facebook or other leading online brand names? Google stores information about blogs you have, and have read, calendar entries, web browsing history, contacts, documents, RSS feeds and much more.
Whilst some accounts are needed on an ongoing basis, such as email, others are used once for a singular purpose (perhaps you’re ordering a Christmas present for someone). It’s hard to keep track of countless accounts and even in the event you want access to the account again, it’s probably after a substantial amount of time and have forgotten the login details. The fun tail-chasing then begins where you try to recreate an account…the website tells you there’s already an account associated with the email address…you try to remember the password…eventually you need a new password…and so on!
It’s not just the hassles with spam email and 3rd party snooping activities…how comfortable are you about having your bank details and other vital pieces of information, stored somewhere, with no control of the security of that data? Sure there is legislation governing the safe-keeping and usage of the data but on countless occasions, we have heard about data leaks in the news…closing your account is certainly something not to be overlooked. Here’s a story about hackers embarrassing Apple…
Lest us digress…when we get to the decision to close an account, it’s very confusing…Does this sound a familiar trail of events? Begin by looking in something like ‘My Profile’ or ‘My Account’….we can’t see anything…we try the ‘Account Settings’….nothing… at this point, a seemingly short task takes too long and we usually give up! But what if it’s important to you?
Firstly – “have a google”! Google, or should I say, “search engines” hold the largest knowledge base in the world, its a fact – if you want to know something, look on the web. Try firstly typing something like “how to close eBay account” – most often you will be presented with a number of links – the more reliable ones being top of the list. It could link you to a YouTube video – go for it! Watch and learn.
If this doesn’t help – write on a forum – Yahoo Answers is incredibly powerful and have a very active and reliable user base. Give it a go – it can’t hurt (but remember to keep track of your account details which you’ll have to set up first)!
There are also websites dedicated to help on certain topics, most recently, WikiCancel. A wiki page (a collaborative online community of amateur contributors) was famed by WikiPedia earlier on in the 2000s. WikiCancel is a growing knowledge base on the subject in hand – how to cancel accounts with certain providers – definitely worth looking at next time you’re having difficulty.
In short, it’s important to keep track of the account data you store online – from photos to bank details. Data that may be seemingly harmless is used by unimaginable algorithms by datahouses to work out consumer habits and other forms of statistics. Some may argue “I have nothing to hide” which is all well-and-good, until your potential new employers do a screening about your personality and find out all about the antics on last summer’s stag-do to Prague! Think about it…