4

I'm referencing this question and this question about the negative impact of making account deletion difficult.

However, I have a case where I'm tracking legal agreements that apply to two or more users each. Even if a user stops visiting the site, I need to keep track of their last known information, in case there's ever a legal squabble between users. Even if they delete their account, we'll have their information on file, which feels ethically shaky, since account deletion seems to imply that they've been wiped from our system.

What would the best balance between honesty and the feeling of user-control? Should I mention in the account deletion process that we'll be keeping their old info? Should I prevent account deletion to avoid the slightest illusion of having purged their info? Should I just not make a big deal of it and change the wording of 'account deletion' to 'unsubscribe from notifications'?

4

You're coming up against the difference between account and data retention. While in an ideal world, we would like the two to be the same thing, when it comes to certain legal issues, they are not.

You should definitely cover this in your privacy policy, and make sure that it's readable and not impenetrable legalese. However, deleting an account is not the same thing as deleting all data, so I don't see a conflict or a dark pattern if someone deletes their account and you retain some necessary data in line with your privacy policy document.

In general the difference is that an account lets you carry on transacting with a service and gain the benefit of being a "citizen" of that service. While data is simply information for historical record keeping.

E.g. Let's say that I had citizenship in country A. I then for whatever reason gave up my passport and citizenship for country A, I would no longer have any benefit of being a citizen. My "account" with country A would be in effect deleted. However, country A wouldn't delete all records that I ever existed.


One thing worth keeping in mind is that if you're operating within the EU or Argentina, any resident may request that all records you have of them be deleted, under what's called a "right to be forgotten". It's basically a poorly thought out bit of legislation that is causing headaches, and is almost certainly going to be revised.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.