Just Let Me Delete My Account

Published: 2023-01-13
Last Updated: 2023-01-21

This post originally started as a HN comment I made. Over the past few of months I've been in the process of deleting some dormant online accounts. Many of these accounts I created well over 5 years ago before I was aware of good digital hygiene. These accounts have information that can (however unlikely) become a liability - whether it's my personal or financial information has been hacked, or the company sells my data to 3rd parties or marketers, or the company is bought out by another company with different privacy polices.

Sometimes it's straightforward and only requires a few clicks, however I've had the most issues specifically with non "tech" companies (especially airlines). It's been a bit of a challenge interacting with the company's customer support to explain my request or digging through their privacy policies to find an email address to contact.

I'm also flabbergasted just how many privacy policies I've come across that are complete crap that seem like it was copy/pasted from elsewhere. I just recently tried to delete an account last week for a bike rental company, and the email address in their privacy policy was literally "support@[company]1234.test". Last year I tried to delete an account associated with a major retail chain, only to learn that I was required to make a phone call and sit on hold for 20 minutes just to even make this request. Forcing people to dial a number to delete their account is not only a dick move, it's extremely user hostile business practice and an example as to why it's important to use alias emails, randomly generated passwords, and burner privacy.com cards.

I stumbled across yourdigitalrights.org a couple of times but opted not to use it, because it felt odd plugging in some personal info into a website I'd never heard of - much like those services that claim to remove you from people-search websites. However, I later realized that this website/service actually generates an email on my behalf that includes the appropriate company email address and relevant messaging. It doesn't have all companies by any means, but it has been helpful in contacting a couple.

All this being said, websites like these should not be necessary at all. I should be able to delete an account (along with personal and financial details) just as easily as I create one. I should not have to contact customer support, send an email to the Privacy Department/Data Compliance Officer, or call a damn phone number.

Obviously we should not just hand over personal data to any random company that asks, however humans make mistakes and may later regret a decision that they only now realize was not in their best interest. I've opened accounts/shared personal data when I had to for work or business reasons and then later left that company. People may believe they have to provide information or create an account when they really don't have to at all. It could be a simple misunderstanding on the user's part or, more often than not, they have been coerced or tricked via dark patterns to provide data and generate an account with a company. In many cases an account equals an advertisingID and far more easier to collect data and track users across the web.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send comments, questions, or recommendations to hey@chuck.is.