Quora has become the latest firm to suffer a massive breach of user data. The intrusion, discovered on November 30, includes up to 100 million users’ names, email addresses, IP addresses, user IDs, encrypted passwords, user account settings, personalization data, public actions and content such as questions, answers, comments, blog posts and upvotes.
Many people will have used Quora and forgotten about it. But this is the scary thing: some might have a Quora account that they don’t know about. The Q and A site is linked to Facebook quizzes – and some users have found they have Quora accounts that they're pretty sure they never signed up for.
At a time of increasing cyber-attacks and data breaches being disclosed every day, it makes sense to delete accounts you no longer use. So, how do you find out if you have a Quora account and delete it?
Social Media accounts
You might have accessed Quora via Facebook or Google. To disconnect social media accounts connected, you can go to Your profile picture > Settings from the drop down menu > Account from the side menu > and scroll down to see Connected Accounts and Disconnect.
You might be receiving emails from Quora, which indicates you have an account. As well as unsubscribing from these using the link at the bottom of the email, you could send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org asking for your data to be deleted. However, given what’s happened, this might not be possible immediately.
How to delete your account
Quora has a handy Q and A page detailing how users can delete their accounts. Unfortunately, you can’t delete the questions you have asked because these are community owned. However, these are not associated with your name publicly.
In order to delete your account quickly, go to the account privacy settings and select "Delete Account". It will ask you for your password in order to confirm the deletion.
If the account was created via Google or Facebook, as many are – users will first need to create a password by clicking the "Change Password" link near the top of the page, then click on "create an account password". Once you confirm, the account will be deactivated immediately and the deletion process will begin.
Quora doesn’t make it easy to delete accounts though: It takes 14 days to delete all your data. Meanwhile, if you login during the next 14 days, the account will be reactivated and deletion will be cancelled.
If you are really concerned and want the account to be deleted before the 14 day deactivation period, Quora advises users to get in touch with the firm via its contact form.
What can I do to stay secure?
If you are among the 100 million affected, you will need to change your password for Quora as well as other sites if you reuse this elsewhere. Even if you haven’t received an email from Quora to say you have been impacted, it still makes sense to at least change your password. Some people will simply prefer to delete their accounts.
As cyber-attacks continue to hit firms that hold huge amounts of data, you also have to be careful about who you trust. Internet giants Facebook and Google have already suffered breaches and leaks this year. It’s important to think before you sign up to anything and ensure you know what technology companies are doing to safeguard your data.
Long before Quora admitted to being breached and losing 100,000,000 million users' account data, it had disqualified itself from being used, by dint of its impulse to hoard knowledge and the likelihood that its limping business model would cause it to imminently implode.
As Andy "Waxy" Baio writes, Quora has long distinguished itself by the extraordinary lengths it goes to to collect your personal information as a condition of accessing the site, and by the worst-of-breed policies it has in not allowing the Internet Archive to back up its data, or even APIs or backup/export tools (the company even deletes Quora topics that question these policies).
Combine that with a quarter billion dollars in venture capital overhang and with their first dollar in revenue only coming in last year (and no earnings reports in sight), and the company stands a good chance of shutting down, or being bought and purged in some significant way -- taking all the material its users provided (and whose export the company blocked) with it.
At some point, the investors who dumped a quarter billion dollars into it will want a return on that investment. Last year, founder Adam D’Angelo indicated they expect to eventually IPO. But market conditions, combined with the results of their ad platform, may force them in different directions — a pivot, merger, or acquisition are always a possibility.
When Quora shuts down, and it will eventually shut down one day, all of that collected knowledge will be lost.
Back in 2012, Adam D’Angelo wrote, “We hope to become an internet-scale Library of Alexandria.”
As long as Quora keeps boarding up the exits, we may see it end the same way.