What you should do when deleting an app from your phone

Tips & tricks
3 mins
App with a "delete" button.

It’s always a good idea to remove apps from our phone—whether because they are no longer useful to us or endanger our privacy—or we just want to declutter our device for more space.

But deleting an app from your phone doesn’t mean your relationship with the app is severed. It’s highly likely that your data is still sitting somewhere on the server of the developer that owns the app. Not only does this mean the app maker still has your information, but your data remains vulnerable to data breaches.

To protect your privacy, there are some measures to take as you remove an app from your device.

Do these before removing an app

1. Unlink any accounts associated with the app

Many apps let you sync your details with other apps and services to make sharing much easier and faster, but by doing so, you’re giving it access to the accounts associated with other apps and services. Removing the app alone won’t stop it from accessing the apps and services you synced and are continuously active on.

It’s best practice to go into the app and unlink any apps and services you synced. If there’s no such option within the app, try going onto its desktop version, which usually lets you control more settings than through the app.

2. Delete your account

Your account associated with the app most likely contains information about you, such as your name, email address, and possibly even your credit card number. Deleting the app on your device does not delete your account; you should first do so within the app.

That said, going through the process of deleting your account does not necessarily mean the company will really wipe your information. Check its privacy policy to see how it handles your account details.

How to delete your account

Many apps and services increasingly give users the option to delete their account. Some apps like Facebook and Bumble let users delete their account in the app settings, while some like Instagram require that to be done from a computer or mobile browser. If you aren’t sure whether the app or service you no longer want to use lets you delete your account, look around the privacy or account settings to see if there’s an option for that—or better yet, go on the web version of the app, which should show you a more comprehensive list of account options. Another way to do this is through Just Delete Me, which provides the direct links to delete your account on different services.

Do keep in mind that some apps and services—like Twitter and Pinterest—do not delete your account right away but have a grace period during which you can change your mind and reopen your account. This period could last from a week to 30 days.

What if there isn’t an option to delete your account?

If the app or service doesn’t let you delete your account, or if you suspect your information isn’t really getting wiped, one thing you can do is replace your account information with fake details and images so you’re not giving away any important information about yourself if someone happens to stumble across your dormant profile.

5 practices to build into your app usage

It’s a good idea to be aware of the data you’re sharing throughout your use of an app, not just at the time of deletion.

  1. Every time after downloading a new app, make a habit of reviewing its privacy settings.
  2. Limit permissions. Only give an app access to your location, photos, camera, microphone, or contacts if doing so is necessary for the app to function.
  3. If you can, only allow the app access to your location, data, or utility the moment you need to—and disable its access right after.
  4. Keep your apps updated, as new versions often address discovered vulnerabilities.
  5. Regularly update your passwords.

Read more: Before you download: Is that app a scam?