The average user has dozens of online accounts or business relationships that change over time. Each of these accounts has the potential to reveal information about you or at the very least increase your digital footprint.
But leaving old unused accounts in place when they are no longer necessary can be risky. Let me offer some examples.
I recently moved. I sold my home of 19 years and moved to a new neighborhood. At my old house, I had smart thermostats. When I installed them, I created an account with the manufacturer that allowed me to control the thermostats remotely. Once I moved, the thermostats were left with the new owner. I no longer required the account. Yet my personal data was still registered with the company even though I no longer had access to the devices. Today, more than six months later I finally remembered to delete the latent account.
Another example is the company that supplied my landline phone service. When I moved, I canceled my service and ported my phone number to a new provider. But the online account I had with the old provider was still in place. I could log in and view my old data. Even though I no longer used their service.
Over the years, I had created online accounts with utility providers, insurance companies, software applications, travel reward programs, etc. Even though I had canceled my service with these providers I seldom took the second step to delete my online data from their databases.
So here is a reminder. Examine your personal profiles. You may find that you likely have accounts that are no longer necessary or in use, and should be removed or deleted. You can always rebuild the profile if necessary, at a later time.
What is the risk you might ask? These accounts contain important personal data like email addresses, telephone numbers, and home and work addresses. Even items that seem to be unimportant like the answer to security questions such as your mother's maiden name, the name of your favorite pet, or your old high school could be fodder for a hacker. Simply put, all online accounts are vulnerable to hackers or subject to being sold part and parcel by companies that profit from the sale of customer data.
So even if you have canceled your service remember to verify that your account data has also been removed. Send your data to that great online shredder in the sky.