Once their toothbrush is in the bathroom, it becomes a question of when – not if – your partner or spouse will ask the magic question: ‘Hey, what’s your password to your account? I need to check something.’
67% of U.S-based internet users living in a marriage or a committed relationship will hand over the password to that question, according to a Pew Research survey. These people feel comfortable enough giving their partner or spouse access to their personal information. In fact, 27% even have an email account that they share with their partner, while 11% of adults who use social media are sharing a profile.
In the internet era when we are overwhelmed by an abundance of online accounts, password sharing is common among young couples. It’s their way of signaling devotion to each other: they let their boyfriend or girlfriend access their email, Facebook or other accounts; some couples even create identical passwords and let one another read the other’s private texts and emails.
While it is a clear sign of trust, security experts and even psychologists warn that this brings with it serious risks. Just think of a scenario where a relationship ends: with the passwords to hand and access to their most intimate photos on the computer, smartphone or any online account, this could easily turn into a personal war where revenge is the driving force. This is how revenge porn was born.
Love can build bridges and open locks, but relationships can change really quickly. A breakup with a partner will unleash strong emotions and accessing the ex-partner’s private accounts could serve as a great way to get revenge.
The same goes for when trust becomes uneasy between a couple. One-click access to online accounts is too tempting, and the partner will likely want to know everything. That’s one possible scenario to consider when this magical question is asked; if you refuse to divulge the password to your private email or social media account, you might inadvertently create a basis for jealousy and suspicion. And since they know you well or have access to your computer they may be able to find hints to guess the security questions, the password recovery mechanism meant to protect your data. Answering honestly to those security questions will give away your privacy.
Psychologists Recommend Independence
It’s easy to confuse love with control, so putting some limits on the relationship is a smart idea. And doing so must mean that a couple trusts one another; you don’t have to give out the password to your main email account to earn the trust of your partner.
Psychologists agree that in relationships it’s good to keep some independence. “The more you self-disclose, the happier you are. But the happiest couples have some degree of secrecy and privacy,” said Kelly Campbell, PhD, an Associate Professor of Psychology at California State University.
How to Protect Your Privacy
Sharing a password with someone or having the same password for multiple accounts just for the sake of gaining a partner’s trust isn’t good password hygiene and weakens your overall security. The best way to have both is to use a password manager, and here is why:
- It will generate unique passwords for each online account.
- The passwords generated are cryptographically secure.
- It puts you in control: if you break up, using any of the password management applications will allow you to revoke access to your accounts in an instant.
Using password management apps developed specifically for either teams or families makes things even easier. Take 1Password Families, for example. Sharing a password with one family member is super easy, just send an invitation and tell the app which accounts you would like the invited family member to have access to. That’s it: peace of mind and good password hygiene at the same time, provided you do use passwords that are generated by the service. If you do end up separating with that ‘family member’, simply revoke their access and they can kiss goodbye to your private zone – all doors will be locked. It’ll make the break up that little bit easier, at least.
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