Me, My Spouse and the Internet

April 9, 2008 at 11:21 pm 6 comments

It’s become a bit of a worn cliché to say that the Internet is changing everything. Many things are obvious- from the read-write web to social networking to online transacting.

But there are also less obvious, more tectonic shifts happening. These are slow societal shifts that will ultimately change the shape of society itself. These deep changes are not readily apparent amongst the constant shrill of everyday headlines. Nevertheless, they are happening- every day, all the time, in imperceptible increments- leading to fundamental shifts stretching over years.

So it was with interest (and with a vested interest) that I read the results of the survey results from the UK’s Oxford Internet Institute as a part of a project called Me, My Spouse and the Internet. As the Institute’s Director said, “This study is a dramatic illustration of the potential for the Internet to reconfigure social relationships.”

The results from the study show the role played by the Internet in the relationships of a representative sample of over 2,000 married Internet users in UK. Some highlights include:

1. 20% of married Internet users admitted to reading their partner’s emails and text messages; 13% to having checked their partner’s browser history.

2. 6% of married Internet users first met their partner online. Just over a third of these were through an online dating site. People meeting future partners online had greater education and age gaps.

3. Face-to-face communication was (still) the most reported way for married Internet users to discuss personal matters and resolve problems but other channels were also used, including text messaging (27% of users), and email (14% of users).

4. Disclosing a partner’s intimate details and other shady online activities got a big thumbs down from partners.

Hmmm… there doesn’t seem to be anything about what married Internet users think about their partner’s blogging activity yet. Or if there any blogging widows out there. That’s a sign for me to move on…


Entry filed under: personal_info, report, strategy, UK.

The EC Strikes Back No real debate on the need for transparency

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. codetechnology  |  April 10, 2008 at 5:56 am

    One of the things I’ve come across in designing gov’t IAM systems is the challenge of credentials being shared between spouses. Or, on the initial self-enrolment into a system, the ready access to shared secrets between spouses can be an issue.

    I would be interested in reading up on research into credential sharing — or even better, cases where spouses have abused a partner’s credentials to access confidential information.

    In systems with single factor login (and even some strong authentication solutions) there is real risk of low-quality identity assurance when couples are involved.

  • 2. Vikram  |  April 10, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Really interesting question, Mike. Voluntary sharing of a logon, such as a password or token, happens in many situations. Besides spouses, another common example is flatmates.

    No matter what type of logons are used- even biometrics- voluntary sharing can be made difficult but not impossible.

    It is worth keeping in mind that, at least for NZ government agencies, authentication standards require the logon strength to be proportional to the assessed identity-related risk of the online service. Therefore, the consequence of people sharing passwords should be low.

    When voluntarily sharing a logon, I expect people make a trade-off between security consequences and convenience, whether they realise it or not.

    One piece of research that may be of interest is this study: and this one which looks at cultural influences.

    I have read about cases where a spouse’s/flatmate’s password has been stolen and fraud committed but can’t find any links. If I do, I will post them here.

  • 3. The Relationship Tip | Me, My Spouse and the Internet  |  April 14, 2008 at 9:59 am

    […] (read more Me, My Spouse and the Internet…) Technorati Tags: man woman relationship, relationship dating […]

  • 4. Till (Identity) Theft Do Us Part… « Passpack Blog  |  July 22, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    […] project called Me, My Spouse and the Internet from the UK’s Oxford Internet Institute released a survey stating 20% of married Internet users admitted to reading their partner’s emails and text […]

  • […] found an excellent blog post called Me, My Spouse and The Internet that breaks down an Oxford study and some of the results are pretty interesting.  Only 20% of […]

  • 6. How to Text I Love You : Life is a Unit Test  |  May 17, 2010 at 8:53 am

    […] found an excellent blog post called Me, My Spouse and The Internet that breaks down an Oxford study and some of the results are pretty interesting.  Only 20% of […]


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