Deleting one’s digital footprint from social media and online interactions can have varying levels of complexity, notes the Guardian’s technology reporter Jack Schofield.
Deleting private data isn’t often a problem, however, some data may be on tape backup, in which case it would be too expensive for firms to delete the data. Before deleting our private data Before closing an account, Schofield recommends backing up data or transferring it to a different service using a service such as Thunderbird, for instance.
Your digital footprint on Google
Deleting an account can involve different data stored in different locations. Taking Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) as an example, the contact and calendar information, documents in Google Drive, posts and photos in Google plus, YouTube comments, and reviews on Google Play are all different variables. Users can look on their Google Dashboard for a list. Even after you delete a single service such as Gmail or Google plus, Schofield notes there is still considerable information about you.
Once data is published, however, the task of deleting it becomes more difficult by magnitudes. The problem is all the interactions and conversations one has had suddenly appear to get “on the record” so to speak.
Deleting Facebook, Twitter accounts leaves old conversations in their place
On Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), however, if you delete your profile as opposed to simply deactivating it, which then leaves all the old “likes” and various conversations you may have had in place. Facebook, Google and Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) all allow users to delete what they from your own account, Schofield noted, but if your comments have been copied or quoted they may reside elsewhere. For instance, data could have been spidered by search engines or other data mining companies vacuuming up what is documented to take place on the internet. Internet Archive, for instance, is backing up the web but not Facebook, while the Smithsonian keeps a database of tweets.
Commercial transactions can be deleted, but it could cause problems with merchandise returns or in situations where copyright protected materials were involved or using applications that were set up based on the old account. While you can delete your account, merchants do not delete their sales data, which is their intellectual property from your interaction.
NSA collecting mass information
Lastly, is the hot topic of tracking and metadata – the sort of information mass collected by the NSA, for instance. This includes revealing information such as the identity of friends, who is contacted most often, the times of day you’re active on the Internet, how many devices you use (and what they are), and log in locations.
Google allows users to remove your history and pause data collection, which is done through the account history. Much of the metadata, however, is not as easily removed – in fact, such tracking is how these firms make money. The old Silicon Valley saying goes, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”
Read the full how-to article on the Guardian website.