View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Password jeopardy

Are usernames and passwords taking over your life?

Posted: April 28, 2008 10:24 p.m.
Updated: June 27, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Dear Zoe:

Do you have any thoughts about this absurd, "password and username mania" lifestyle we are being forced to live? Does anyone need to learn one more frigging password? You can't even get your voice mail without mini-maximum security protocol.

My uncle, who is 80 years old, had a business Web site that was about to expire. He was confused and needed help, so I swooped in, as would any hero, coming to the rescue, credit card in hand. However, because neither my uncle nor I knew the password or the answer to the "secret question" they said I couldn't pay the bill. Alas, without a password one is treated like a potential criminal - and without the answer to the secret question, we are nothing. I was only trying to pay what was due - to give them money, I explained. Why would I sneak up on myself to pay my or anyone else's bill and why would that be objectionable? The Web site was shut down.

Who started this secret code insanity? Are we living in a spy movie or what? I think the early astronauts had less junk to remember than we do.

-- Harvey007

Dear Harvey007:

I feel your pain. And you are not alone. I know lots of other people feel the same way. I, myself, have counted my own passwords and, apparently, I have a list of 43 passwords and usernames for different accounts, online groups, voice mail , etc. Has any university done a study counting the total hours and minutes a day the average person spends reciting or typing out numbers? This would have to include the time spent answering demeaning "secret questions" - all in the name of privacy and security.

It makes me nostaglic for the time when the "secret word" was something only Groucho knew and if you said it, a duck would drop down and an orchestra would play, and you'd get to answer another question. But life is not a game show.

And you're right Harvey, it is a bit like a spy movie. Do most normal people need this kind of protection and espionage that these companies insist on? Or do we need protection from the companies themselves? Years ago when I first experienced "voice mail" and it's retrieval routine for messages, it always amazed me. I wondered if this was originally designed for criminals and politicians. Who has this many secrets?

Well, now we all do - all passwords. My cable company, in an effort to maintain security, requires - for my privacy and protection - that I give my social security number to any operator on each and every call. And this isn't a bank, this is just entertainment. But it's all in the name of privacy and security - for my protection, you know, for security purposes.

Well, since crime and fraud have became a national past-time, I dare someone to show me one corporation, especially a major one, say, like a bank or utility, that doesn't take advantage of it's customers.

They have developed a complex, specialized, abusive "bag of tricks" of bullying, manipulating us through a series of non-negotiable surprise policies, hidden fees and charges. And all this comes as we are a captive audience, worn down and brought to our knees, robbed of our dignity, spirit and free will (and not to mention money).

Their secret weapon? The Queen Mother of all stun gun tactics - putting us on hold for obscene amounts of time. "On hold" is the ultimate holdup. Needless to say they always win because we can't live without our electricity or phones. All of this amounts to a sort of legalized highway robbery, an activity that used to be known as stealing.

Will we one day need a background check to order a pizza? That's not a background check for those delivering to your home, but a background check for you.

Why can't we just memorize one password and use the same one all the time? Because different companies or organizations request different kinds of passwords, some with numbers, some not.

Sometimes your password is already taken. So all the myriad of passwords are somewhat of a necessary evil. Because, even if you could use the same password in every situation, it could ultimately be dangerous. Sigh - gosh, I long for the time when identity theft was something we only feared from our parents.

Possibly some time in the future when we get married, we will be given a user name and password at the alter and find ourselves coming home from work and greeting our spouse with a kiss on the back of the neck and our password. "Hi Honey, I'm home, 4434wowiezowiepoopsiesnarg." Or possibly, when slipping into bed with our loved one, we would say, "Hello Sweetie, it's me,

Yep, Harvey - I know all I need is one more password to remember.

Well, it's a fact that the brain can only hold so much information.

My question is, if we are so busy occupying our memory with so many numbers and codes, and new technology - no doubt a contributor to people's ever climbing irritability, the increase in drive-by shootings and the rising divorce rate - will we also begin to lose brain space for the really important values? Will there still be room for concern for other people or will we lose some humanity? Are we in jeopardy of putting things before people? Things can be replaced, people can't. Let's hope we don't one day find the cat jumping out of the rinse cycle and the laundry outside for the night. "Where did we leave Grandpa?"

Anyway, good luck to you Harvey. Ya know, I have to pay my electric bill tomorrow. I hope they let me.

Zoe Miracle is a comedy writer in Hollywood, Calif. Zoe also hosts the Internet radio broadcast "The Naked Truth" at Her opinions are her own and not necessarily those of The Signal.


Most Popular Articles

There are no articles at this time.
Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...