Two-thirds of couples ‘share passwords to online accounts’, Pew research finds

Couples who have been in a long-term relationship indulge in risky online behaviour, such as sharing passwords for online accounts, with two-thirds of married couples sharing at least one password, a new study by Pew Internet has found.

More than two-thirds (67%) of internet users who are married or in a committed relationship have shared the password to one or more online accounts with their spouse/partner, the survey found.

Over a quarter (27%) of internet users in serious relationships share an email account with their partner. Those most likely to share email accounts are older people, or couples who have been in a relationship for more than ten years.

Time’s Techland blog described the practice as ‘risky’, and said, “Before you go offering up your Netflix password (or something even more intimate) as a sign of your undying devotion, though, consider what might happen if things in the relationship go south. Spurned lovers have been known to hijack exes’ accounts and impersonate them online, and stories of explicit photos falling into the wrong hands are all too common.”

Pew Internet’s study found that couples who had met more than ten years ago – ie before the launch of networks such as Facebook – tended to join ‘together’, whereas couples who had met more recently tended to remain individual.

“As a broad pattern, those who have been married or partnered ten years or less have digital communication and sharing habits that differ substantially from those who have been partnered longer. Some of this is about timing – technology a decade ago was squarely in the pre-Facebook, pre-smartphone era, and just ten years into the development of the commercially popular Web,” the researchers write.

“Those who were already together as a couple at the advent of a new platform or technology were a bit more likely to jump on together, as a unit, while those who begin relationships with their own existing accounts and profiles tend to continue to use them separately as individuals.”

Further We Live Security reports on password issues – including how-tos explaining good and bad password practice for companies and individuals – can be found here.

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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