Passwords sharing couples increase intimacy, decrease security
Technology is playing a key role in the socialization of the upcoming generation - and producing a number of curious side effects in the process. The latest example, according to New York Times columnist Matt Richtel, can be found at the intersection of intimacy and online security.
Young couples have always had a unique way of expressing their emotions and signifying their bonds, but the digital generation seems to have introduced an entirely new custom.
"It has become fashionable for young people to express their affection for each other by sharing their passwords to email, Facebook and other accounts," Richtel explained. "Boyfriends and girlfriends sometimes even create identical passwords, and let each other read their private emails and texts."
While such displays of mutual trust can be indicative of a strong and healthy relationship, password sharing also reflects a bit of naivety.
Experts have consistently advised against using the same login credentials across multiple sites. If that password fell into the hands of a clever cybercriminal, it could be used to compromise multiple accounts and possibly lead to full-scale identity theft. This is especially true with email, considering that information from a variety of online accounts - including reset passwords and financial information - is often found in a central inbox.
Aside from the online security threats introduced by hackers, there is also the possibility for things to turn ugly once the offline relationship begins to fizzle.
"The stories of fallout include a spurned boyfriend in junior high who tries to humiliate his ex-girlfriend by spreading her email secrets; tensions between significant others over scouring each other’s private messages for clues of disloyalty or infidelity; or grabbing a cell phone from a former best friend, unlocking it with a password and sending threatening texts to someone else," Richtel noted.
Citing research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Richtel suggested that at least three out of 10 middle- and high-schoolers are likely engaging in password sharing. Considering the lack of foresight traditionally displayed by teenagers - and the intense social pressures they often face - some are suggesting that parents take a more proactive role in educating their children about potential dangers.
Regardless of the source, young couples must be made aware of the dangers and their available options. According to Gizmodo, it may be wise to set up certain limitations, such as sharing a password to an instant messaging service but not email accounts. However, this half-measure will not completely eliminate vulnerabilities in the way password organizer tools or similar utilities can.