Lauren Goode

A Handy Guide to Deleting Digital Accounts

If you’ve ever tried deleting a bunch of your Web accounts, I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s a huge pain.

Some attempts require searching the website for tiny “Help” text, scanning online support forums, clicking the “Are you sure?” button three times, or calling customer support. Then — just when you think you’re out — you’ll continue to get emails from the company, like an ex that won’t get the hint.

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My column this week focuses on how to delete accounts for some well-known Web apps and services. This isn’t assuming that you want to delete these, but in case you ever do, this might be a helpful guide.

A few things worth noting: This is different from “unsubscribing,” which removes your name from email mailing lists but doesn’t necessarily remove you from an account or database. Also, deleting a mobile app from your smartphone — either by “X”-ing out the app on iPhone or uninstalling it through settings on other smartphones — doesn’t mean you are no longer signed up for that service online.

And just because you successfully delete an account doesn’t mean your digital data goes away entirely. Some companies hold on to your data for 30 days, 90 days or for an indeterminate amount of time.

Facebook: Deleting your Facebook account is relatively straightforward. There are two options — deactivation and permanent deletion. Go to the drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of your home page, select Help, then Visit the Help Center and Manage Your Account. On the left-hand side of the screen you’ll see a list of options, including Deleting and Deactivating Accounts.

Deactivating your account means that Facebook will still keep your profile information somewhere in the event that you decide to rejoin. Hitting the permanent Delete My Account button means that everything goes and you won’t be able to reactivate your account. It can take up to a month to fully delete an account, and your data still will remain in backup servers for up to 90 days.

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Base image: Shutterstock / rvlsoft

Twitter: Fortunately, Twitter requires far fewer than 140 steps when it comes to deleting an account. Once you’re logged into Twitter, go to the Settings wheel in the upper right-hand corner of the page, and select Settings from the drop-down menu. You will be taken to your Account page. Scroll all the way to the bottom, where you’ll see a link to deactivate your account. You’ll have to reenter your Twitter password once more to confirm the deletion.

Your tweets may still be viewable for a few days, and the company relinquishes responsibility for any of your tweets that may have been cached by Google or other search engines.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn can feel pretty sticky, because even after an account is deleted, users may still get LinkedIn-related emails. Go to the Privacy & Settings page, click on Accounts, and then look for tiny text that says “Helpful Links.” In that section, there should be an option to close your account. You’ll have to click through a few more pages and give a reason for leaving before closing your account.

As with Twitter, LinkedIn warns users that removing public-facing aspects of your profile from search engines like Yahoo and Google will take more time.

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I also asked LinkedIn if there was any way to permanently ward off LinkedIn emails after you’ve deleted your profile. LinkedIn said it purges users’ email addresses 30 days after an account is deleted, but if a member invites a non-member, the non-member will still receive a LinkedIn invite in their inbox.

Yahoo: Deleting a Yahoo account is simple, but since there are many popular apps and services tied to Yahoo, you’ll want to be certain that you’re okay with trashing these, too. First, go to Yahoo.com and look for Help, usually in tiny text on the lower right-hand corner of the homepage. In the search bar at the top of the Help page, type “close account.” The first result should be “Closing Your Yahoo Account.” Click on this. From there, go to Account Termination page, where you’ll be prompted to sign in, reenter your password once more, and confirm the deletion.

Here’s the catch: Yahoo said that deleting Yahoo account will also delete your Yahoo ID, Yahoo GeoCities, Flickr photo account and Sports Fantasy accounts. It will not, however, delete your Tumblr account.

AOL: You’ll never forget your first email account (or “You’ve got mail!”). But for some people, nostalgia might not be enough to justify keeping an account open. On the AOL homepage, scroll down to the very bottom and click Help. In the search bar, type “close account.” Two results should come up, one that guides you in deleting your free AOL.com account, and one that tells you how to cancel a paid-for account. For the former, sign in, select “Change My AOL Plan” and then hit “Cancel plan.” You’ll have to give a reason for canceling, and then you can close your account.

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But, as with Yahoo, closing your AOL account means that you’re also canceling other services — like AIM.

Google+: Google splits its services up so you don’t throw your Gmail out with the Google+ bathwater, but this makes the process slightly more confusing. First, log in and go to Account. Scroll down to Account Management, select Delete Profile, and remove related Google+ features. You’ll be presented with two options.

If you just opt to delete your Google+ account, you’re deleting Google+-specific content, like your circles of friends, your “+1”s and your timeline activity. However, you’re not deleting public information you’ve set on your profile. The next step is deleting your Google user profile, which deletes your public-facing name and photo.

There’s actually a third option — deleting your entire Google account — but that one wipes out everything Google, including your Gmail and YouTube accounts.

Google said it takes a few days for your Google+ content to be deleted and, as with LinkedIn, you can delete your account, but there’s nothing stopping others from inviting you to join and connect through the service.

Apple, Amazon and Netflix: Amazon, Apple and Netflix are different from the others, mostly because they offer paid services and require your credit card information. They’re also different because they require interaction with customer support in order to delete an account. This can be a pretty circuitous process (I was sent through multiple channels of Apple support when I asked about deleting an ID). The companies want to verify that it’s you for security reasons, but I also suspect that some want to make it tough to leave.

With something like an Apple ID, you’ll lose all apps and copyright-protected iTunes content associated with that ID when you delete it. Netflix doesn’t even delete accounts — it “cancels” your paid subscription, but still retains your account information. If you want to erase all credit card info you have to contact support. Amazon makes it easy to delete payment information, but try to delete your account and you’ll be greeted with this.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work