TECHNOLOGY

Love and logins: Forget fido, after a breakup, who gets the passwords?

Feb 9, 2022, 8:16 AM
FILE - The logos for streaming services Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and Sling TV are pictured on a r...
FILE - The logos for streaming services Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and Sling TV are pictured on a remote control on Aug. 13, 2020 (AP Photo /Jenny Kane, File)
(AP Photo /Jenny Kane, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Emily Taffel didn’t pull the password plug when she divorced her first husband, and she didn’t cut off the boyfriend who followed. Now remarried with four stepchildren, she continues as a model of civility when it comes to exes and logins.

The 41-year-old in Coral Springs, Florida, and her first husband didn’t have kids, much money or own a house when they divorced. What they did have were subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu.

“We each paid for one of them and share. That was literally our divorce agreement,” Taffel said. “It was written right in there. We’re still doing it.”

When boyfriend Sam came along but the romance ended three years later, they maintained close ties and joint custody of additional services, sharing logins and the cost to this day among themselves and Taffel’s ex-husband. Taffel and her current husband have added more and shared down the line over a decade after her first marriage ended.

“I know it seems crazy,” she said. “The ex-boyfriend and the ex-husband aren’t friends, but through me everybody is very amicable.”

In this era of cybersecurity concerns and calls for multifactor lockdown of all things digital, that approach points to a thorny issue when love goes wrong: What to do about the logins?

Nearly 8 in 10 Americans who are in a relationship share passwords across nearly every digital platform, ranging from social media to email and cell phone to mobile wallets, said Harold Li, vice president of the encryption service ExpressVPN.

“In the digital era, sharing passwords is a sign of trust and affection akin to the gift of a letterman jacket or an exchange of school locker combinations,” he said. “However, while it may seem like a romantic gesture at the moment, it poses serious risks to your personal privacy, which even the closest of relationships need.”

And when relationships end, whether romantic or of the friendship variety, he recommends a thorough “digital divorce.”
Sisi Cronin, 33, in Napa, California, is still logged in to her college boyfriend’s Netflix account, with her own profile. While they don’t live near each other, they remain friendly after going their separate ways when she was 23.

“One time about three years ago he sent me a kind of funny message saying, hey, Netflix has decided to limit how many people can be on, would you mind getting your own? And I just wrote back saying I’d rather not. We haven’t talked about it since,” she said. “When you’ve got all these different subscription platforms it’s ideal to not be paying for all of them yourself, right?”

Nick Leighton of the etiquette podcast “Were You Raised by Wolves” equates the changing of shared passwords after a breakup to returning the sweater left behind by the ex.

“Be mindful of the fact that when a person discovers their login no longer works, it’ll be a clear reminder that the relationship is indeed over, which may cause hurt feelings,” he said. “In a relationship, asking someone for their password can make some people uncomfortable, so it’s often better to wait until they volunteer to share rather than putting them on the spot. It should also be noted that sharing passwords might possibly violate the terms of service.”

Things don’t always go swimmingly when logins aren’t cut off post-breakup.

“Change the password. In the age of perpetual watch histories being widely available, nobody wants to know that their ex just watched `The Notebook’ on Netflix. It stirs up all sorts of emotions,” said John Capo, an assistant professor of communications at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“Were they thinking about me when they watched it? Who did they watch it with? Why were they awake at midnight, anyway? Remember when we used to watch `The Notebook?'”

Brian Penny, 40, in Tucson, Arizona, doesn’t have the heart to leave an ex out in the cold on his HBO Max and Hulu accounts.

“She’s struggling with work and it doesn’t cost me anything, but it does show her name because she added herself as a profile,” he said. “I do wonder what the next girlfriend will think about seeing another woman’s name in my account. I’ve already reasoned I would say it’s a cousin or friend.”

The digital safety provider Aura commissioned The Harris Poll last year to look into the issue of prioritizing shared streaming access over security, and found that one-third of American adults of more than 2,000 polled said they continue to access the sites of a partner or friend after the relationship ends.

Eleven percent have let a former partner or friend use a streaming service, and 12% have had to explicitly ask a former partner or friend to stop using an account after the relationship ended.

“It’s no secret that password-sharing is a way for consumers to get around the cost of paying for multiple services,” said Hari Ravichandran, founder and CEO of Aura, in a statement. “What consumers aren’t considering is that these behaviors make them vulnerable to digital crime when people outside your household — even ones you trust — have your passwords on their devices.”

Researchers have found a variety of reasons people maintain streaming ties after a breakup — convenience, finances and post-breakup friendships among them. A downside: When a vindictive ex deliberately wreaks havoc with algorithms to mess up ads and suggested viewing, or creates a profile to rile up a current love interest. One sharer said the parents of an ex stayed logged into one of his sites for two years after they broke up and sent him a gift card out of the blue as thanks.

Chandler Sterling in Los Angeles shows up as a generic “guest” profile on the Netflix and Hulu accounts of a former long-term girlfriend. He also uses his parents’ cable TV subscription with his Apple TV for access to pretty much anything, including sports.

“Yes, I’m 34, and yes, I make over six figures at my job, but I won’t pay for something if I don’t have to,” he said. “My ex has never directly confronted me about the guest profile on Hulu. On Netflix, she changed the guest account’s profile picture to the guy from the show `Lucifer,’ so I think she’s sending me a message about how she feels. … I have zero guilt for all this cloak and dagger mooching.”

Penny said he wasn’t sure if or when he would remove his ex.

“Our relationship didn’t end well at all,” he said. “I think a part of me leaves it alone so she leaves me alone. The peace of mind is worth it.”
___
Follow Leanne Italie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/litalie

Today’s Top Stories

Technology

Amazon email...
Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN Business

Amazon is always watching

At an invite-only press event last week, Amazon unveiled a long list of product updates ahead of the holiday shopping season that appear designed to further insert its gadgets and services into every corner of our homes with the apparent goal of making everything a little easier.
20 hours ago
Trucks are lined up for sale at Low Book Sales in Lindon on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. Most new vehicl...
Heather Kelly

Automatic emergency braking should only be used as a last resort

AAA of Utah says automatic emergency braking systems have limitations and should only be used as a last resort to prevent a crash.
4 days ago
Netflix gaming...
Catherine Thorbecke, CNN Business

Netflix to open its own video game studio as part of gaming pivot

The streaming giant is building its first in-house video game studio in Helsinki, Finland, as it expands its empire over mobile games.
5 days ago
(Photo courtesy of Salt_Verse on Twitter)...
Rachel Metz, CNN Business

This guy is using AI to make movies — and you can help decide what happens next

"Salt" resembles many science-fiction films from the '70s and early '80s. The way it was created points to what could be a new frontier for making movies.
8 days ago
Google googled phrases...
Aubri Wuthrich

A Google analysis shows which words are the most confusing to Americans

Americans use Google to define terms that are confusing for them, this study shows which terms are most commonly searched.
10 days ago
DWR law enforcement truck pictured. The Utah DWR will use drones to help with wildlife management...
Britt Johnson and Elizabeth Weiler

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources launches new drone law enforcement team

Utah has created its new drone law enforcement team, designed to get a better look at wildlife crimes like poaching and trespassing. 
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Love and logins: Forget fido, after a breakup, who gets the passwords?