Making new online accounts is the ultimate privacy power play
Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.
If you’ve spent any time on the web or on a smartphone in the last few years, chances are that advertisers and tech firms have amassed a substantial amount of information about you, including your life, habits, and interests.
There are multiple ways you can protect your privacy from within your various accounts (including these guides on how to limit tracking on your phone and on the web), but sometimes, that’s not enough.
If you want to go the extra mile, a more drastic option is to start fresh. That could seem especially scary if you started your accounts back when the very concept of online privacy and security were non-existent, but new accounts have nothing attached to them, and that gives you a chance to be more careful about the data you give away.
You can create a new Google account here. You’ll be asked to provide a first and last name, a username, and a password. Supplying a phone number is mandatory now, too—Google will send a text message to the number with a 6-digit verification code that you must enter to proceed.
You can use a number that’s associated with an existing Google account, if you want to. After that, you’ll need to specify your birthday and gender. You’ll also have the option to set up a recovery email address that will help you if you ever get locked out.
On the confirmation screen, click More options to stop Google from logging your activity on the web and inside ads. There, you’ll also be able to disable location tracking for your new Google account and opt out of personalized ads (though the number of ads you see won’t change). You can change these settings at any time from this page.
Go here and click on Create Your Apple ID to start creating your new Apple account, which you can then use across all of Apple’s apps, services, and devices. Just plug in your name, country, date of birth, a password, and select two security questions that you’ll be able to use to get back into your account if you ever lose access.
You’ll also need to supply a username in the form of an email address, which will be your new Apple ID. A verification code will be sent to this address and you’ll need to enter it to finish creating your account. You won’t need to supply a phone number, but you can link one later if you’ve got an iPhone.
Head to this page to view and manage the data that Apple holds on you.
To set up a shiny new Microsoft account, go here and click on Create a Microsoft account. In this case, you’ll be prompted to enter either an email address or a phone number to form the basis of your account. It’ll be verified with a code. On the same screen, you’ll have the option to create a new outlook.com email address, if you want.
Supply a password, country, and date of birth when prompted, and your new account will be up and running. Your Microsoft account will grant you access to all kinds of Microsoft apps and devices (Office 365, Xbox consoles, and Windows PCs, for example) and will keep your data synced between all of them.
You’ll find the key privacy settings for your new Microsoft account on this page. You’ll be able to stop Microsoft from collecting data (on your devices and inside the Edge browser), delete any data that’s already been collected, and opt out of personalized ads if you want to.
New Facebook accounts can be created here, on the front page of Facebook. You’ll need to supply a name, a password, a date of birth, your gender, and either an email address or a phone number. Facebook will contact you to verify your account before it’s enabled.
Straight away, you’ll be asked to supply a profile picture and to look for people you already know on Facebook, although both these steps are optional. Click on Take a Privacy Tour on the opening screen to see some of the key privacy settings for your new Facebook account.
You can find all your Facebook settings at any time on this page. But as far as data logging and user privacy is concerned, the Privacy, Timeline and tagging, Location, and Ads sections are the ones to pay most attention to. Another simple way to limit the data that Facebook collects on you is to not install the app on your phone (or any app that Facebook owns, like WhatsApp or Instagram).
Head here to get yourself a new Twitter account. Follow the prompts to enter your name and an email address or a phone number (which will be used for verification purposes). On the second screen, make sure you leave the Personalized ads box unchecked if you don’t want to see targeted ads.
Once your email address or phone number has been verified, you’ll have to supply a password to finish the process. You can upload a profile picture, enter a bio, and pick a few accounts to start following, but all of this is optional.
You can change your Twitter username from this page and access data privacy options from this page. Compared with some of the other accounts we’ve looked at here, Twitter doesn’t collect all that much data on its users, but still you’ll be able to opt out of various personalization features.
You can create a new Instagram account here. You’ll need to enter either a phone number or email address, your name, and your chosen username and password. Instagram will also ask if you’re over or under 18, as this affects its data collection policies and the resources it offers users.
As soon as you’ve created your account, you’ll be shown some popular accounts that you might want to start following—your Instagram feed will be pretty dull if you don’t follow anyone—and then you can hit Get Started to dive in.
Head to this page to access all your Instagram settings pertaining to security and privacy. Keep in mind that if you’ve linked an Instagram and Facebook account together, your data will be shared across the two accounts, so be sure to adjust your settings on both Instagram and Facebook.