Deleting Accounts from Websites

I ran across this article about How to Delete an Account from Any Website on the PC Magazine web site. It covers how and what options you have for about 30 popular web sites. Interesting how some make it easy and some don’t.

As a data guy it’s definitely interesting. We’re not big on deleting data after all, especially when doing so will skew history. Imagine reporting traffic on your web site for the past 12 months and the number always changes because subscribers drop off and with them their history – not a pretty sight. Most of us (or our organizations) aren’t very good about archiving data either, it’s often a complex task to manage all the foreign key(enforced or not) relationships to figure out when a record can be aged out.

I think delete is probably the wrong word. Do we want some to be able to delete all of their posts from a technical forum? I think in most cases we want/need a way to just flag a user as inactive, and for something like a dating or job search site hide them from searches. Probably the most common approach is to allow users to unsubscribe from various notifications.

It’s something I haven’t thought about enough. In a way it’s very much a part of privacy, what control do you have over content you create? Can you remove it, hide it?  Interesting stuff.