What We Give Up

April 7, 2024 • Louie Mantia

I used to instantly delete emails about a company’s policy changes, but now I’m taking a different approach. Before I delete the email, I delete the account.

We give up a lot when we sign up for an online account with a company that retains data about us. It’s worse when the online company provides a minimal value increase compared to its offline counterpart. Often, the exchange isn’t worth it. We do it anyway because sometimes there isn’t a viable alternative, which makes this seem like monopolistic behavior.

Why are online versions of companies allowed to have more user data than their offline counterparts, simply by existing online? A physical grocery store knows very little about me. But if you buy groceries online, they know everything. Proceeding without an account is becoming less common.

I really don’t need this many accounts. I don’t want to have an account for everything I use.

These emails just remind me to delete those accounts.

But why am I the one who has to delete the account?

Companies are too comfortable modifying their policies passively over years, because they get to retain user data even if users don’t explicitly consent to a policy change.

Whatever regulation that required these kinds of policy-change notification emails greatly failed us. A notification is not enough. If a company changes their policies, individual user data should be made completely inaccessible to that company until that user explicitly agrees to the new policy.

It may be time to regulate companies on data retention, specifically around inactive accounts. How many things have we signed up for, used once, and our data is sitting there dormant, waiting for an inevitable data leak?

Functionality like guest checkout should be mandatory.

Companies should be required by law to allow users to make temporary accounts that self-destruct after the business between them concludes. Companies should not be allowed to benefit after the user no longer benefits.

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