I continuing my effort to take control over my data, and digital presence and the next target on my list is Gmail. I have been using Gmail heavily since early 2007, and the application contained a significant amount of my data in its archives. I didn’t need any tools to delete my email, as Gmail provides some easy “select all” options for folders, which easily allows me to delete from inbox, archives, and anywhere else.
I’m not fooling myself to think that Google has some index of my history, or that they’ve already enriched their machine learning models using my data, but cleaning up my past feels good, and is something I will be repeating every six months. Before I got started, I downloaded my archive using Google Takeout, which I’ve put in a backup location for possible future reference.
What was difficult for me is getting over the notion that somehow I needed access to my Gmail history. I can count on both hands the number of times I’ve had to search the archives for anything historically important, and in all of the situations I would have been fine if I did not find what I was looking for. The stories we’ve told ourselves about needing this history is powerful, and something that is very difficult to overcome–I do not know where this has originated, but is something I’ll explore further in future stories.
When I copied the downloaded Gmail archive to my backup location I saw the Outlook .pst files for 2000 through 2006, before I switched to Google–something I have never cracked open. I question the need to even keep these archives–what the hell am I going to do with them? I’m going through each of the other digital services that I use and will be setting up a similar strategy for cleaning up my history and archives on each platform. As I do this work I keep having concerns about the algorithms not treating me the same, my ranking and scoring taking a dive, and other worries. These are all concerns that are made up, and are in place to protect platforms interests, and really have nothing to do with me, except to ensure that I keep giving away my data, and the digital exhaust from my daily work.