3 quick and easy ways to declutter your digital life
Unless you're living under a rock, you’re probably aware of dozens of recent data breaches involving huge — and therefore implicitly trusted — companies (*cough* Facebook) where your sensitive information was mishandled and put at risk.
Privacy is a major issue these days, and the best way to prevent your data from being exposed in a breach is to start small, at home.
1) LET’S GET PHYSICAL
Clean the digital clutter from your space. We hope you don’t leave sensitive data lying around in your home or workplace, but data that could be compromised in a physical breach could include anything on your computer or phone — think old PDFs containing medical information saved to your desktop, photos on your phone of your driver’s licence or passport — that you'd be better off trashing or saving to a more secure cloud service.
Put yourself in a criminal’s mindset: if you were looking to commit fraud and you stole someone’s laptop or smartphone, what would you look for first? That’s the kind of info you should be deleting or securing.
2) DELETE OLD, OUT-OF-USE EMAIL ACCOUNTS
Why are you hanging onto that embarrassing email address from high school? Unless you believe firstname.lastname@example.org could serve you in adult life, it’s best to give it the boot, because email accounts — even dated ones — are a hacker’s goldmine. Through an email, someone could gain access to almost any other piece of info about you — everything from logins to other accounts, to passwords, financial data, the information of all your contacts, your mother’s maiden name and the make of your first car.
Before deleting an email account, go through it and download any data you may want, and double-check to make sure there are no other services you use currently that are still connected with the old email, like Spotify, PC points, you credit card, Netflix, et cetera. Search out any subject lines associated with account creation, go into the security settings and check for any third-party apps with account access.
If you don’t want to get rid of the email altogether, you should at the very least change its password to be long and strong.
3) GET RID OF APP ACCOUNTS YOU DON’T NEED ANYMORE
Remember when you downloaded Runkeeper last January and used it to track your one New Year’s resolution workout? Well, it really doesn’t need to be on your phone if it’s not in regular use. Apps like this track far more than calories burned — they also track your location (among many other prized informational nuggets), even when turned off.
Companies store data they’re given long after you delete their apps, so going forward, don’t download apps or create accounts online for no reason. The more of your data that’s out there, the tougher it is to manage.
Decluttering digitally is about being proactive with your privacy — it's about paring down the amount of your personal data available to only what you need and use, so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.