7 Steps to Tidying Your Digital Life

We live our digital lives across a variety of apps, devices, and accounts. On each of those, a breadcrumb co

nects back to you. The more breadcrumbs you have out in the world, the easier it is to trace your activity, whether for advertising or identity theft. Installing a password manager and enabling two-factor authentication can go a long way. But spending 30 minutes once a year closing accounts and deleting what you don’t need can further prevent any funny business, paving the way not just for improved privacy but better performance as well. Think of it like data minimalism, a Marie Kondo–style approach to data and security.


STEP ONE: DELETE THE ACCOUNTS YOU DON’T USE

We’ve said this before, but once more, with feeling: Delete your old accounts. Think of every online account you have as a window in a house—the more windows you have, the easier it is for someone to see what’s inside.


Spend a day going through all the old accounts you used once and then forgot about; then delete them. Doing this will cut down on opportunities for that data to leak into the world. It also tends to have the nice side effect of getting rid of email clutter.


STEP TWO: DELETE APPS YOU DON’T USE FROM YOUR PHONE

It’s best to spend a few minutes every couple of months deleting apps you don’t need. If you’re anything like me, you download all sorts of apps, either to try out new services or because some store makes you download something you’ll use once and likely forget about. An app could be a black hole for data, cause privacy concerns, or serve as a vector for security issues.

Before you delete an app, make sure to first delete any associated account you may have created alongside it. To remove the app once that’s done:


ANDROID

Open the Play Store.

Tap the hamburger menu in the top-left corner.

Tap My Apps & Games > Installed > Alphabetical and change it to Last Used. For any app you don’t use anymore, tap the name of the app, and then tap Uninstall to get rid of it.


IPHONE

Head to Settings > General > iPhone Storage, to find a list of all your apps, organized by size. This section also lists the last time you used an app. If it’s been a while, there’s likely no-good reason to keep it around.

Tap the app, and then tap the Delete App button.

While you’re at it, now’s a good time to give the remaining apps a privacy audit to make sure they don’t have permissions they don’t need. Here is how to do so on Android and iPhone.


STEP THREE: AUDIT THIRD-PARTY APP ACCESS

If you use a social media account to log in to a service (like logging in to Strava with a Google account), you access social media accounts through third-party apps (like Tweetbot), or you use a third-party app to access data like calendars or email, it’s worth periodically checking those accounts to remove anything you don’t need anymore. This way, some random app won’t slurp data from an account after you’ve stopped using it.

All the major tech companies offer tools to see which apps you’ve granted access to your account. Go through and revoke access to apps and services you no longer use:


Facebook

Click the dropdown arrow in the top right, then select Settings and Privacy > Settings > Apps and Websites. This includes apps you’ve granted access to Facebook, and apps you use your Facebook account to log in to.

Go through and remove anything here you don’t recognize or no longer need.

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