Some adventures are fun. Others are hellish and dispiriting. As a rule, the adventures that ensue when you try to figure out how to delete your account from a Web service like Amazon or Spotify are not the fun kind. They're the kind that make you want to book a flight to Seattle just so you can hurl your computer through Jeff Bezos' window.
It was after marveling at some fed-up users' tweets about how incredibly difficult it is to delete a Skype account that a British developer named Robb Lewis decided to lend a hand. So he built a website that takes the adventure out of account-deletion. It's called "Just Delete Me," and it's as simple as Skype's account-deletion procedure is convoluted.
1. Go to justdelete.me and find the service from which you want to delete your account.
2. Click on the service's name and follow the instructions on the screen to delete your account.
Step 3 is optional: If the instructions on the site itself aren't clear, you can click "show info" on the Just Delete Me page to learn in plain English exactly how to delete your account. Never again will you be forced to wonder, after 20 minutes of clicking around fruitlessly in your Evernote app, whether it's even possible to delete your Evernote account. (It isn't, though Just Delete Me will take you to a page where you can at least deactivate it.)
But the best part of Just Delete Me, in the long run, is the color-coding. On justdelete. me, sites that offer easy account deletion are coded green, the moderately difficult ones are yellow, the hard ones are red, and the impossible ones are black. At a glance, the world can now see how desperate various sites are to hang on to their users' data, even when it's clear the user wants it back. Forthwith, a sampling of major Web services whose account-deletion procedures Lewis rates as "hard" -- in some cases because the "delete" button is buried in the site's bowels, and in others because the only way to delete your account is to actually call up customer service and harangue them in person:
iTunes / Apple ID
New York Times
And then there are the Web services that Lewis rates as "impossible." In some cases they will allow you to deactivate your account, but offer no way to delete your data. In others, you're just plain out of luck. Which I suppose is another way of saying that if you care about control over your data, you shouldn't create an account with them in the first place. Too late? Your next best hope may be to shame them into changing their policies. The following sites that Lewis rates "impossible" might be a good place to start:
Via RobbLewis. me
Oremus is the lead blogger for Future Tense, reporting on emerging technologies, tech policy and digital culture.