Skip to content

Online Presence Minimization

Go to | #1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5

Remember in my last organization project story, I mentioned I have hundreds of online accounts? Well, there's not that many that I actually use. Especially Google accounts, I have way too many for 1 person. Over time I have accumulated not 2, not 3, but 8 Gmail accounts! This is because every time you get a new Android phone, you have to link your Google account to gain access to a bunch of features. In the past, I primarily used a Comcast email address, and Gmail was an afterthought. So, I would just create a new (unused) Gmail account every time I got a new phone. This story is similar to other stories for why I have accumulated so many online accounts, and I have been working on a major cleanup for the last few months to trim down all this extra digital fat.

Games, Websites, Forums...

I've been slowly getting rid of old accounts I've created for games I never play anymore, and things of that nature. For the most part, it's easy to request data deletion (there is often a button of sort on your account details page) but occasionally, you have to contact the site owner directly. Which sometimes works just fine, but other times can be a huge pain. I mean, it is the law. In the EU, at least.

I am going to call out one service that does not let you delete account data: NamePros. I signed up for this site when I was interested to buy a particular domain name, but realized that going that route was not going to help whatsoever. I could not find a way to delete my account, so then contacted site staff. They said that it was not possible to delete accounts. I couldn't even delete my threads! I was so angry and I'm so glad that I used a fake name to sign up for that website. I truly hope they get sued. What if someone accidentally posted sensitive information that they couldn't take down? That's dangerous!

Google

Google accounts are so objectively convenient. They give you access to Gmail, Google Drive, office tools (Docs, Sheets, Slides), extra YouTube features (including creating your own channel), and much more. Some 3rd party websites even allow you to "sign in with Google" which lets you skip their account creation step. All this, and it's free to use! Why? Google likes data. Google likes your data. Google likes making money off selling your data.

There's definitely an incentive to hide as much personal data as possible from Google and 3rd party companies, but at this point, your data is probably floating out there somewhere, even if you were not the one that shared it. So this was part of the reason for the clean up project, but mainly it was to make things easier for me. Over time, I'd signed up for different services using different Gmail accounts, and it was starting to become a huge mess.

My goal was to consolidate all my accounts into using just 2 email addresses, one for personal and critical uses, and one for games, spam, and unimportant junk. At this time, I am down to just 4 of my original 8 Google accounts, which means I am still preparing to delete 2 of them. Luckily, Google makes it very easy to delete your data, but with a catch. They store your data for up to 30 days, at this time you cannot access it but Google still can. But as far as we know, after 30 days, your data is gone, off Google, but perhaps not from the companies they sold it to.

For one of the 2 Google accounts queued for deletion, I am nearly ready to completely delete it. However, I'm just waiting on hearing back from a few services to delete some accounts I created using that Gmail address.

The other account is more complicated. I have a Google Play balance from a gift card I received years ago. Unfortunately, I've found no way to transfer a Google Play balance to another Google account. Which means, I either use it, or lose it. I wonder if there is a way I can spend the balance on something that I could transfer to another accout, like gifting a membership, for example. I'm playing around with that idea right now, but if I can't figure it out, I might just go ahead and delete the account anyway. It's only $20.

Conclusion

Websites definitely should allow users to have more control over their personal data. It upsets me with the NamePros example that they don't allow deletion or redaction of any kind. With all these startups which make AI that scours the internet for data, individuals definitely should be allowed to determine what information of theirs is actually fed into those AI's. I'd be terrified to ask ChatGPT about myself and find something that I didn't write on this website. In fact, I asked ChatGPT "Who is Nicolas Ventura" and I was pleasantly surprised to read this, despite it completely destroying my career:

I don't have information on a specific individual named Nicolas Ventura. It's possible that he could be a private individual or someone who hasn't made significant contributions or gained widespread recognition in public domains such as academia, business, or entertainment up to my last update in January 2022. If he has become known or relevant after that time, I wouldn't have that information. Can you provide more context?