Sharing passwords: An act of love or recipe for disaster? 

Phone and valentines day hearts

Updated 2/11/2019

In an age of megabreaches and growing identity fraud, we’re all a little extra cautious about keeping our information safe online. I’d even venture to say that some of us (myself included) are paranoid about someone stealing our personal information.  No matter what sites you visit, if you give them you’re personal information, there is a risk. Even looking for love online with popular internet dating sites can lead to hacked accounts. This recent TechCrunch article discusses how some OkCupid users are complaining about their accounts being compromised. 

With all this in mind, it feels daunting to even create accounts online, but what if you want to share account information with your loved ones? Generally, passwords are something we’re told to keep secret and never share with others. But what about the person you’re in a relationship with? Should you share passwords with them? Where do you draw the line? 

Why you might need to share passwords 

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to sharing passwords. What works for some people might not work for others. The reality is, though, that many situations do demand password sharing noawadays. 

Some possible scenarios you might encounter: 

  • Shared video streaming or entertainment accounts (do you really want to pay for two Netflix accounts?) 
  • Paying bills or the mortgage 
  • Managing joint bank accounts or credit cards 
  • Online shopping for things like Amazon or Peapod 
  • Health accounts for scheduling appointments and accessing records 
  • Photo and document storage in Google Drive or Dropbox 
  • Wi-Fi connection 

And that’s just scratching the surface. Much of our lives at home and work now revolve around our technology, so it’s inevitable that a situation will come up in which you need to share a password. 

So, if you know you’re going to be sharing passwords, how can you protect yourself while making things easy? Here are some Dos and Don’ts. 

Do prepare by making every password unique 

When you use the same password across all your accounts, it’s easy for someone to impersonate you and log in. It’s very risky online behavior. Make it a habit to use a different password for every single online account. A password manager can help keep track of all those passwords for you. Make sure you get this system in place before you start sharing passwords with others. 

Do share passwords through a password manager 

Part of the trouble of sharing passwords is not knowing if the person is still using the account or if they’ve shared the password with others. Sharing through a password manager helps you keep an eye on what they have access to and the last time you updated the password. Plus, you can always update the password and any changes will automatically sync to anyone you’re sharing with, too. 

Do share with only those you trust 

Think carefully about who you’re sharing a password with and why. Have a discussion with your significant other so you’re on the same page about what’s acceptable and what’s crossing the line. It can be hard to think rationally when you’re head-over-heels in love but exercising caution may prevent some serious headaches – and heartaches – down the line. 

Do change passwords after a breakup (or when they don’t need them anymore) 

It might not be the first thing on your mind after a breakup, but it’s very important to change all your important passwords – think email, social media, online bills, and finances. Hopefully they won’t do anything crazy, but breakups can bring out the worst in people. It’s better to play it safe. 

Don’t share credentials for finances 

If possible, avoid sharing credentials to your banking and other financial accounts. There’s no reason to risk your life’s savings and your credit score. If for some reason you need to jointly manage finances, open a joint account for that explicitly purpose while maintaining separation from the rest of your assets.  

Don’t forget to plan for the worst 

It’s morbid, but password sharing is also important should you ever have an emergency or pass away. Since we do so much online, sharing passwords ensures your loved ones can access everything from important documents and photos to paying online bills and settling your affairs. Giving emergency access through a password manager reduces stress for loved ones should the worst happen. 

Ultimately, the decision to share is between you and your significant other. Keep in mind the above best practices and try to stay level-headed when it comes to your online security. Staying safe online is a lot like falling in love. You can’t predict the way it will all play out, but you can be mindful of the worst while hoping for the absolute best.