Observations during online account cleanup

  • Post category:Social / Technology
  • Reading time:10 mins read
as many websites as many accounts, user names and passwords

A decade, maybe for some couple of decades, ago life in the internet world was much simpler. A big percentage did not have any digital life, just ordinary people life existed. But the life has its own flow and takes its own turns. It changes its nature over time. It leaves sediments at places based on the turns it was taking. Accordingly some places develop more and while sees the draught or barren land. One can see this in the rise and fall of certain empires and countries. Be it Spanish or British empire or the reining kingdoms of mid-east to Soviet powerhouse. They all change with time. In last few decades, digital world on Internet is the new wave that is sweeping the ordinary life. More and more people are effected by it. It is not just about the more new people being effected by it. The old customers also find themselves on the continues flow with ever changing currents of this wave. One thing which is mostly behind the scenes of all social, shopping, travel, hotels, learning or any other domain is the existence of “account”. We are surely bombarded by the new platforms. It makes us to adapt and learn the new things on how to use this platform. But slowly creeping in the backside in the hard-work, pain or security risks of online accounts.

Earlier, one could manage with probably couple of online accounts. Most people would have one email account and it was easy to maintain it. As time changed, we created online accounts for newspapers, shopping sites, facebook and twitter, travel site, hotel booking sites, banking and investment sites, even health workout sites.  Before one knows, there are hundreds of accounts with same or different user names. Next challenge is maintaining passwords. One could manage couple or handful of passwords in mind. But and ordinary person find it impossible to remember all the user names and passwords for different websites. It becomes even more challenging with different websites having different rules for  acceptable password characters. Icing on the top is that some website enforce you to change the password after certain duration. They all do it for different durations. If that is enough then once in a while you would get an email from one of the platform that “your account information was compromised”. Then you need to either change information or adopt the new security mechanism.

updating profiles by personal or external choice
Updates: personal or external reasons

There will always be some technical challenges with accounts and security. The problem that I , after procrastinating for many years, was finally handling was the online account litter. I mean over the account we create number of accounts and later we no longer use it or there is no longer he need of those services. This becomes more visible, if you have been changing countries all the time. Of course this also mean lot of unwanted email in your inbox, that we find it easy to just delete it, or filter it in another folder, never to open it again. Even if we one day open that folder, we find it overwhelming to go through this historical emails and do a bulk delete. I did that for many years. Finally when my account list was almost close to 200, I found the courage to go through the online account garage and clean it up. It was an interesting experience and going through it made be have some observations that I catch myself doing for any subject. Some of those that I remember now are listed below without any specific sequence of priority or level of pain.

Not all websites offer the option to delete the account

This for some reason was my assumption that cleanup would be simple, but just laborious. My expectation that I will log in to the account, maybe after resetting the password, find the way through menu options to delete the account. I was expecting with some much advancement in technology and standardization, account creation and deletion would have become a standard. But, my lazy hopes were crashed just after going through couple of accounts. I had to contact support teams through online forms or emails to ask them to delete the account. It made the task really long and tedious.

Lesson: Delete the account as soon as you identify that there is no need to keep it.

Confusion of terminology

My objective was to go to the accounts and delete those accounts. With that mean, all traces of account are deleted. So if there is any security breach for that platform and user account information is stolen, no one should my information in those database. Of course, if it was some forum, then my comments would remain, but with User name anonymous or unknown or some other abstract name. I found that some websites are very clear with definitions of de-activation of account vs deletion. But some user both interchangeably. While contact these support services to delete the account, I will get a reply, that your account has been de-activated permanently. I had to ask again, if they have actually deleted my data or just put a de-activation flag.

Lesson: Do not assume that language is simple, even if it is such a simple and clear task.

Bigger name is not always better

I had few accounts on platforms which provide expertise information to almost whole world on technology. This was the reason for me to create an account and some documents are only available to registered member. In one particular case the website was targeted for technological security. The have documents , articles and blogs about how to manage security, login and account information in all kind of technological platforms. Apparently big enterprises also take advise from them how to do such things. I realized, that on their main website they do not have login page. When I used the security sub-domain to login, I realized that only option I had is to logout from the account. My name is simply displayed as text and does not have any link to go to my profile. Only way I could go to my profile is from the link that I got when resetting my password!!. To top it, they do not have any option to delete the account. When I tried to find any support contact form, no form or email would take me to any technical support team. All contact forms are to contact them for business queries and get some consultancy on how to manage enterprise security!

Lesson: Check if the advisor follows its own advise.

Online identities

There is a big effort to ensure that one physical user has only account customer ID. This was a big news when some platforms started to push for real ID and not fake IDs. Banks and other enterprises are also trying to have one customer record rather than different customer records for every account. On the other I came to realize that one of the biggest payment gateway “Paypal”, enforce you to use different email IDs and create different accounts per country. I was surprised that such a big global platform has such a situation.

Lesson: Elephants move slow

Customer service and cultures

This could be a sensitive topic, but there is no way around it. Being worked in IT service industry, I understand the customer service and its pains. Unfortunately, the biggest IT service industry and call center destination has really bad understanding of customer service if not the worst. This is true for the IT industry and in general customer services as well. I comment this based on my personal experience inside the industry and also as a customer to various services of banks, mobile companies or shopping companies. Funny part is there are standard communications that one can even predict before contacting any customer service. Customer has been lost in those services and numbers , hours, minutes have taken over. I would write it separately again about this specific topic, but for now a quick summary.
I had to delete an account from a big shopping platform in India. I send them an email to delete it. For more than a week I am getting mails how customer service is important and “they are working on to address my concerns”. The result is I am moving between one team to another in cycles as everyone says it is not their issue. I will update this entry, when the issue gets resolved 🙂
On the contrary, fortunately for me, when going through the list, I realized that a pre-paid credit card account, that I assumed I closed 2 years ago was still open. This swiss account still had sufficient money in it. I logged into the account and asked how to go about as I do not have any swiss account anymore to transfer the money. Next day, I get a reply that card was already blocked and I just need to send my bank account information to make the transfer! While another swiss provider, when I contacted over an online form, informed me that account is deleted and also that in he implementation phase to make this functionality available as a self-service option in the account profile!

Lesson: While I do not like generalizing, but few things have a reason.

Customer can be a pain , but not always
Customer service is not always that bad

Some litter probably just always stay

I managed to delete lot of accounts. However, there were some websites, which did not exist anymore. I do not know what happened; were they taken over by some other company or just business is closed. More importantly, what happened to the user account information? Was it deleted, migrated, sold to somebody!

Lesson: There would probably always be litter.

Well, I know I am lazy, especially for such activities. However, I am happy that I went through this experience. It not only helped me reduce the unwanted account litter, but it also made me have new observations from different perspectives. While some days it was a pain, but while other days it brought a smile or even a small laughter to me. I hope I clean up my accounts not to have litter anymore. But, if I had to do this activity again, I hope I remember it as a smiling activity.


Arundeep Singh

Mulla Nasrudin climbed into a barber’s chair and asked, “Where’s the barber who used to work on the next chair?” “Oh, that was a sad case,” the barber said. “He became so nervous and despondent over poor business, that one day when a customer said he didn’t want a massage, he went out of his mind and cut the customer’s throat with a razor. He is now in the state mental hospital. By the way, would you like a massage, Sir?” “ABSOLUTELY!” said Mulla Nasrudin