Is controlling children’s passwords a breach of their privacy?

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This article, written by Claudiu Popa, University of Toronto, originally appeared on The Conversation and has been republished here with permission:

Passwords, by definition, are secrets. We use them to identify ourselves to systems and gain authorized access to places that other people are denied access to.

Every online account is an identity, but only if it is reserved for the exclusive use of its owner.

But when it comes to the passwords of children, grown-ups often pull rank, claim ownership and exercise authority without a moment’s hesitation.

Breached accounts

Over the past decade, there have been almost 10,000 data breaches involving personal information of all kinds, from financial transactions to health data. Data breaches are often enabled by the availability of stolen or leaked passwords that are quickly used to gain access to other sites. Although data breaches are never the victim’s fault, identity theft is a lot easier because people often choose the same password for use on different sites.

According to a McAfee study conducted in 2013, up to 74 per cent of parents control their children’s passwords. In other words, parents exercise more than just the right to inspect the child’s assets: they reserve the …

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