I love you, but you can’t have my password

Published: April 12, 2011

Shortly before I had my break up with the girl I intended to marry, I almost shared my information with her.

I recently read a blog post about sharing personal e-mail accounts with your partners or spouse. The blog said about 33 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men share their online information with their partners.

It also said that among unmarried couples, 10 per cent of the time, this led to a discovery of their partner’s infidelity. The figure was lower for married couples – about three per cent.

The identity theft expert who gave these stats, Robert Siciliano, went on to warn that this figure was among those who had admitted to account sharing and discovering the infidelity of their partners. Those who did not own up (and the number of hearts broken) are unknown. It struck a chord somewhere deep inside me.

This brings me to my own little story. Shortly before I broke up with the girl I intended to marry, I almost shared my email/ Facebook information with her. I stopped short of voluntarily giving her access.

I felt that I trusted her enough to share it. However, I believe in respecting one’s privacy even if you are married. Though, I confess I would not have minded if she had given me access to her passwords.

Soon after, a series of events led to the cessation of all ties and I pushed all memories of her to the darkest corners of my mind.

A few weeks later, among the company of friends, an acquaintance who had had a recent break-up of his own, revealed the reality of his girlfriend leaving him was too much to bear.

“I had her Facebook account hacked” he confessed.

“And?” I prodded.

“It was what I had suspected,” he rasped.

“Another guy?” I dared.

A leaden nod followed by a hiss through clenched teeth confirmed that it was true.

Information is indeed a dangerous thing.

I never had anything to hide from my ex. My past exploits were known to her. And even if she had access to my personal accounts, I doubt she could keep up with four of my regularly used accounts and social media, much less my full arsenal of online access points and aliases. But would she want to? More importantly, for what purpose would she use them other than just information?

Looking back, I do find some comfort in the fact that I never shared my information with her, for fear of what use she would put all that information to now that she has no moral or emotional bond with me. Would she discard it or spread it? Would she blackmail me or indulge in cyber-stalking?

I believe that in such a position, one would do what most people usually do when their ex moves out – change the locks.

According to Siciliano, a Michigan man was charged with a felony after he logged into his (now ex) wife’s gmail account to discover she was having an affair.  The charge is computer misuse and he could serve up to five years in prison. He used her password and their shared laptop to gain access to her account. Apparently, marriage does not mean you give up your privacy electronically.

Do you share your e-mail or Facebook passwords or allow your partner to go through your cell phone? Maybe you should think again.

Gibran Ashraf

Gibran Ashraf

A sub editor at the web desk of The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • fiza

    glad someone wrote about this.
    plus its also invading ur friends’ privacy by letting ur partner view their stuff through your account.Recommend

  • http://www.trailofpapercuts.wordpress.com Nilofar Ansher

    Wrote about this in my blog a while ago. I think the notion of privacy is different in cyberspace. Because of the use of passwords, we think we have something to protect or hide, or that our information is valuable and liable to hacking. We do see an increasing number of couples whose notions of privacy means that they don’t share information about each other’s financial status, bank accounts, experiences with members of the opposite sex, job related information, etc.

    Would you password protect love letters written in paper and ink? :-) http://trailofpapercuts.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/would-you-password-protect-your-love-letter/Recommend

  • http://wasioabbasi.wordpress.com Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    I have seen this happen a few times with my friends, where breakups began after sharing passwords of emails and facebook. Even if there was no affair, having a pleasant and teasingly funny exchange of emails/messages also created rifts, leading couples to breakups (so far, no blackmailing, cyberstalking or anything). I did warn my friends that it might seem good idea to give the access, but the result may not be as you think.
    Under certain emergencies I did gave my password to close friends and they lived up to the expectations, never logging again once the emergency was over. So, always be careful about sharing password. Thank you Gibran for sharing your thoughts.Recommend

  • parvez

    Good article and good advice at the end.Recommend

  • http://www.romaisachoudhry.com Romi

    I am all for keeping your privacy intact. Why do you need to have each other’s password anyway? If at the end of the day, you have to share a password; then why not just use ONE account, instead of keeping two separate ones?Recommend

  • http://www.healthypasswords.com Ken Klein

    Another side of this story is planning for life changing events. In many cases our significant other is also expected to be the executor of our estates. At a minimum, everyone should think about providing access to important accounts when you cannot.
    If you are incapacitated, a living will helps fulfil your requests when you cannot. Including your accounts and passwords with these papers can help. When someone takes over for you, they typically check your paper mail, but they may not know to check your email and make online payments for you. To do this, they will need access.

    Keep a listing of your online accounts and passwords with your living will / will. Healthy passwords should change on a regular basis. Update the list regularly or provide the formula used to incorporate expiration dates into your passwords.

    The last thing your family needs is delinquency notices or bill collection agencies during an already stressful time.

    Even when we die, our passwords will not be obsolete. Social networking sites are loaded with pages of dead people haunting their friends and family members.
    If you have a will, you are probably a good planner. Leave instructions in your will to close all your various accounts out. Recommend

  • J

    @Ken Klein

    One of the best and useful comments ever posted in response to an article on ET.Recommend

  • seeker

    The advise is good but the state of affair is bad.
    Girl friends /spouses keep an eye on the other —–why???????

    We are not ready to forgive each other for some careless words and vow for the life long commitment of marriage and friendship????

    If my spouse has to know me from the comments I mailed to others and not from the moments I have spent with him , then we both should reconsider our relationship.Recommend

  • Rabia A Khan

    Most of the points about respecting privacy of friends etc are valid. But personally I feel sharing pws adds to the intimacy and closeness in a relationship. You can laugh about a funny fb message, or notification with your partner. It adds to the trust you have for them and sharing strenghtens your bond. Based on personal experience, my ex always refused to share pws citing the fact (a commentator mentioned earlier that it would create rifts e.g. a harmless message to a friend might be perceived as flirtation). However such a rift is not the fault of fb but points to a poor relationship and bad communication/compatability. There was never real closeness, trust, affection in the relationship and not sharing pws was a symptom of that. Now I am in sth I am more hopeful about and absolutely happy in; we share pws and it is fun, adds to the closeness and trust. We havent regretted it even once. So I feel we should not stress independence, privacy too much. After all if you look at the great love stories they are not about people ferociously protecting their privacy, streassing on independence. They are about finding a true partner you share life with. Recommend

  • Dr. Amyn Malik

    Great article Gibran. I wouldn’t want to share my account or password with anyone…don’t know about othersRecommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/FishLovesSea Damha

    Very well written and I believe that no body has a right to invade private space. But there should be trust amongst the partners. And since the time has existed so has infidelity, Nobody can help it. The only ones we can control are, our selves. Recommend

  • H

    Trust! that is.. no trust no happinessRecommend

  • tehmeena rizvi

    i second you Damha great article and a great replyRecommend

  • A.

    You guys CAN change your password right??!Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    My best friend has my FB password iin case I don’t have internet and have to feed my pets and open my restaurant.

    Sadly enough, I’m completely serious.Recommend

  • http://fruitforbidden.wordpress.com Fruitforbidden

    Why hide things? Just Flaunt them! In marriage, sooner or later the missus will find out. It’s better to win her trust by telling her and admitting to things. And when it comes to misuse, your ex can misuse your pictures too. But then, you shouldn’t have had a relationship with a potential blackmailer in the first place! :PRecommend

  • Sheraryar X

    You cant hack into a Facebook account.Recommend

  • dr adnan

    very well written article bout very sensitive topic of the day.
    the words like privacy, independence etc do not suit when u r in true relationship with somebody. this relationship is about sharing everything. if u r fearing break ups it means your chit is not clean
    well guys i lov to share everything with my lovRecommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/fa.nizamani Faraz Ahmed Nizamani

    I also think that, we should never give our pasword to any third party even If we love them…!
    Faraz Ahmed Nizamani.Recommend

  • Hira

    I caught my ex flirting and abusing girls on fb msgs. He was so dumb that he gave me his fb pwd so easily and i first thing checked his sent msgs and yes i caught him red handed. So the face other of the story is if you suspect your partner then before any serious commitment DO chk his sent msgs! either fb or hotmail .Recommend

  • Hira

    other face*Recommend

  • az

    I’m in a friends with benefits relationship and he has my facebook password to keep tabs on the girls he might be getting married too. I know its quite twisted but its true.Recommend

  • Naima Aslam Khan

    Very well written and a very sensitive matter!
    Every relationship is based on loyalty, sincerity and trust. One should give enough space to the other person. If he/she really trust the other person, the password won’t matter. If your partner has doubt about you, he/ she would always end up judging you. And one who judges you would never have the time to Love you. So no sharing of passwords please!!!Recommend

  • http://eatmysandwich.blogspot.com/ Self-righteous pig

    I do share my passwords with my wife, but usually they are too complex for her to commit to memory. Then again, even if she does remember them, I have nothing to hide. I have her passwords too and again, no problems whatsoever. I guess you just need to change your passwords when you decide you want to have an affair. And even then, she will know because her sixth sense will tell her something’s amiss. When she discovers your password is changed, she will know she’s on to something. My advice is to always be honest and sincere and break it off before you decide to indulge yourself in something else.Recommend

  • sana

    there are plenty of good reasons to NOT share passwords. what if you want to plan a surprise birthday party for her? what if her best friend is emailing her about her troubled sex life?

    btw, if people share passwords they should announce it in their email signatures or something. “my wife may read your reply to this email.”Recommend

  • Avante Garde

    thanks Gibran for this wonderful piece. Treat to read.
    Can have mine ;P you sound pretty responsible now. Recommend