If you stop using an online account, should you delete that account or keep it? The question has no simple answer, as several factors play a role in the decision making process.

If you decide to delete the account, it may or may not be removed from the server of the company or individual operating the service. This is bad from a privacy perspective, as companies may still use the data associated with the account.

What's clear is that you won't be able to sign in to the account anymore and that you don't have access to it anymore. What may happen however is that deleted usernames may be distributed again after a period of time.

This can be problematic for a number of services including email, social media, messaging, or any other account type that may either reveal information about you, may be used to impersonate the previous owner, or may be used to gain access to other accounts.

PC World reported back in 2013 that Microsoft was recycling Outlook email accounts, and CNET that Yahoo did the same thing.. Microsoft is not the only company that does that. Twitch announced this year that it will begin to recycle accounts as well.

While the reusing of deleted or inactive accounts adds these usernames to the pool of available names again, it poses a security and privacy risk that users need to be aware of.

This may not be a problem for a throwaway account that you created to access a service or content. If you did not link any personal data to it, and don't need it anymore, you probably don't care what happens to that account.

If the account is linked to personal data however, or an email account that you may have used to sign up for other services, then you may not want to delete that account.

Your option

Instead of deleting accounts, you could remain in control by not deleting it. There are a couple of caveats however that you need to be aware of.

Some companies delete accounts if they are inactive for a certain period of time. You can avoid this happening to the account by checking in frequently, or by using services that automate that for you.

Have an old email account lying around that you don't want to lose but have no desire checking every now and then? Use a service like IFTTT to keep the account active, or integrate it in another service or program to sign in regularly this way.

Another thing to consider is that data that is associated with the account remains available. You may want to delete some of it, for instance posts on Facebook, or any other data that is either publicly or privately available as part of the service.

Ghacks reader STech suggests that you change the password to a very secure one. This is not necessary if the password is secure already, but if it is not, or if it is reused elsewhere, you may want to change the password to a unique secure password that no one can crack in a reasonable amount of time.