What Do Your Security Questions Say About You?

The stories behind our password hints

Photo by Les Thwaites

It’s weird that when an online password escapes you, the last line of digital safety is your high school’s politically incorrect mascot or the name your mother was forced to abandon because of patriarchal tradition. But if security questions are good for another thing—stories. So I asked people to tell me theirs.

One friend told me about her first concert (Third Eye Blind) where a crowd surfer landed on top of her. An old boss told me she didn’t actually have a childhood hero, adding “maybe that’s my problem?” One acquaintance told me that, coming from an immigrant family, a lot of these questions didn’t really apply.

I dug into this thinking I would be fascinated by the security questions people could and did answer. But it was the ones they couldn’t or wouldn’t that struck me. These questions are testing if we’re who we say we are, if we’re human, if our memories are precise enough to be reliable, and the answer is often, “maybe.” But maybe is not a sufficient answer for Chase Bank’s security algorithms. How do you remember how to remember your passwords?

Will Thwaites is a filmmaker, audio producer, and host of the podcast Nouns.