We know it’s a pain, but ...

It might be worth the trou­ble to purge long-for­got­ten ac­counts.


You should re­ally delete old ac­counts on­line

NEW YORK — The in­ter­net is rid­dled with long-for­got­ten ac­counts on so­cial me­dia, dat­ing apps and var­i­ous shop­ping sites used once or twice. Sure, you should delete all those un­used lo­gins and pass­words. And eat your veg­eta­bles. And go to the gym.

But is it even pos­si­ble to delete your zom­bie on­line foot­prints — or worth your time to do so?

Ear­lier this month, a lit­tleused so­cial net­work no­ti­fied its few users that it will soon shut down. No, not Google Plus; that came five days later, fol­low­ing the dis­clo­sure of a bug that ex­posed data on a half-mil­lion peo­ple. The ear­lier shut­down in­volved Path, cre­ated by a for­mer Face­book em­ployee in 2010 as an al­ter­na­tive to Face­book. Then there’s Ello send­ing you monthly emails to re­mind you that this plucky but lit­tle-known so­cial net­work still ex­ists some­how.

It might not seem like a big deal to have these ac­counts linger. But with hack­ing in the news con­stantly, in­clud­ing a breach af­fect­ing nearly 30 mil­lion Face­book ac­counts, you might not want all that data sit­ting around.

You might not have a choice if it’s a ser­vice you use reg­u­larly. But for those you no longer use, con­sider a purge. Plus, it might feel good to get your on­line life in or­der, the way or­ga­niz­ing a closet does.

Take dat­ing apps such as Tin­der, long af­ter you found a steady part­ner or gave up on find­ing one. You might have deleted Tin­der from your phone, but the ghost of your Tin­der ac­count is still out there — just not get­ting any matches, as Tin­der shows only “ac­tive” users to po­ten­tial mates.

Trou­ble is, clean­ing up your dig­i­tal past isn’t easy.

For one, find­ing all the old ac­counts can be a pain. For some of us, it might not even be pos­si­ble to re­call ev­ery dat­ing site and ev­ery wouldbe Twit­ter that never was, not to men­tion shop­ping or event tick­et­ing sites you bought one thing from and for­got about.

Per­haps a bet­ter ap­proach is to fo­cus on the most sen­si­tive ac­counts. It might not mat­ter than a news site still has your log in, if you never gave it a credit card or other per­sonal de­tails (of course, if you reused your bank pass­word you might be at risk).

Rich Mogull, CEO of data se­cu­rity firm Se­curo­sis, said peo­ple should think about what in­for­ma­tion they had pro­vided to ser­vices they no longer use and whether that in­for­ma­tion could be dam­ag­ing should pri­vate posts and mes­sages in­ad­ver­tently be­come pub­lic.

Dat­ing sites, in par­tic­u­lar, can be a trove of po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion.

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