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Why just uninstalling apps isn’t enough to keep your data safe

Let’s say you’ve finally had it with Facebook. You’re ready to leave the platform, go outside and spend more time away from the light of your screen. But, knowing how hard it is to resist temptation, you delete the app from your phone. Your problems are finally over, right? Well, not exactly.

Despite how it looks, getting rid of an application from your device is only the beginning. The developers of these apps don’t just benefit from the users they attract, but the data they provide as well — and purging an app without considering your data puts your private information at risk.

With how prevalent data breaches, security flaws, and information brokering are, protecting your personal data is vital. That’s why you won’t want to miss our insider tips on how to cleanly break away from any app you delete — no matter how much data you may have shared with it.

It’s all about accounts

When we get bored, tired, or outraged with an application, what’s the best solution? If you answered “deleting the app,” you’d only be half right. Sure, getting rid of the program removes the item from your device, but what it doesn’t do is remove any accounts that may be associated with the application.

These accounts, no matter how benign the app may be, contain the personal data that you provided the app. If you’ve removed the program from your device, whatever developer that owns the app still possesses a copy of this data.

This means that no matter how many gigabytes of data deleting Facebook freed up, you can still log in to your account elsewhere. It also means that Facebook is still able to collect data on you from around the web using its usual assortment of tricks.

On top of this, it’s worth considering just how risky it’s been in the past year to trust software developers with our personal data. Major applications like Yahoo experienced catastrophic data breaches that exposed usernames, passwords, and worse.

By leaving an account for an app you’re not using online, you’re leaving that data up in the air for hackers to access if they attack that platform. That’s why it’s best not to give them a chance in the first place.

Not every third-party app has you create an account, mind you. Some don’t even collect personal data at all. But if you ever had to provide an email address, phone number, or password to access a program, you’ve probably created an account of some sort to use it. Use this as a litmus test when you decide to delete apps and aren’t sure whether to go any further.

If you know that an app you want to delete features an account, you’ll want to make sure that it’s gone before you proceed.

How to get rid of old application accounts

There isn’t a cookie-cutter solution to remove an account for any given application, but there are some best practices that will apply for a good deal of them.

For starters, you’ll need to know the login ID and password you use for an application in order to verify your identity and remove your account. Without this, you might find yourself unable to go any further.

Next, you’ll want to check if the application in question has a Settings menu. Since each app is built differently, you may need to poke around until you find it. Almost universally, however, applications tend to use a Gear icon to represent Settings.

When you’re inside your app’s settings menu, check to see if there are any options to delete or deactivate your account. Tapping or clicking on this entry will usually include instructions to help you the rest of the way.

If you can’t find any areas like this with your app, you may have to log in via a computer on the application’s website. Some apps only have controls that can be accessed through a desktop web browser, so make sure you have your login information handy and proceed accordingly.

If you still can’t find any options to remove an account on the application’s website, you’ll want to look for a contact or support form. Nearly every website features one of these.

Simply fill out the form and mention that you’re attempting to delete your account. Do not provide your username and password at this step, and wait for further communication from the platform before taking any more steps.

Once your account is kaput, you’re safe to delete the application for good. Now, enjoy your peace of mind that your data is where it belongs: in your hands and not someone else’s.

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