Reducing my internet profile


In a fit of cleanliness, I’ve recently been cleaning up unused accounts on the internet. This post by Sven Fechner is a great help in working out which passwords you use and which you don’t: I’ve been using a very similar system to track which accounts I no longer use around the internet. Daily deal sites (where I bought one–inevitably terrible–product and then forgot about them), forums I no longer frequent, old sign-up pages for conferences, software websites with sign-up-only free trials…the list goes on. Since 1Password has been busily collecting every password I’ve used, it’s suddenly a lot easier to find all these old accounts.


When I decided I should regularly cycle/spring clean my passwords, I thought that “every six months” was a good frequency. There’s a problem with this: I vastly prefer small, do-every-weekend tasks over large dedicate-an-afternoon tasks, and faced with the sheer magnitude of logins stored in 1Password (624 at the time of writing), I simply gave up. “I’ll deal with it next time the task comes up” I thought, merely delaying terrible feelings for another six months.

My plan now is to shift to a weekly cycle: every weekend I open up 1Password and check which accounts’ passwords have expired, or need me to check in with them. I suspect that a once-a-week cycle will be more than enough once I get the initial backlog under control: I anticipate it being a once-a-month job.

It’s easier to tear down than build up, except with website accounts

Some websites are easier than others to leave. As a rule, the more technology-oriented sites (37 Signals/Basecamp spring to mind) are dead easy to leave: there’s a big button down the bottom of the account preferences page. As you depart from professional IT/online services, however, it’s increasingly harder to quit companies. ScholarOne’s AbstractCentral service, which a lot of scientific journals and conferences use for abstract/paper submission, editing, and so on, tends to keep your data around for ages with no visible way to remove it (I found a still-active account on there from a conference in 2010: it was like wandering through a ghost town). Mum-and-dad companies also tend to stint on the account removal process, as do the more local firms. I’m currently in technical wrangles with a site who apparently can’t delete any of my information because it’s required “for tax purposes”.

The worst offender so far is Autodesk, which doesn’t even have an “account settings” page. Attempts to hit customer support have (so far) driven me in a loop around their site with no submission box or email address in sight. I feel like the rest of this evening will be spent staring at the site map, trying to find the most human-sounding link.

If you don’t hear from me within the month, send a search party.

[ETA: After some searching I managed to find Autodesk’s twitter help account, who were very helpful. So bonus points to them! Points off Autodesk as a whole for (a) having to manually disable my acccount and (b) having no email contact though.]