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Taking inventory of authentication technologies I use: work context

26 Apr 2012


In their paper, Laurie Jones et al (2007) concluded that people often used authentication technologies but were unaware of this, thus perceived these technologies negatively as a result of the unfamiliarity.

I decided to put this conclusion to the test by taking a closer look at my daily activities: which authentication technologies do I use? Am I aware that I am using them, and does this knowledge change how I perceive them? In this narrative I focus on work at Loughborough University.

On Wednesday 18th April 2012, I woke up and went through my usual routines before driving to work. When I arrived at the gate, the automatic number plate recognition barrier lifted and I drove through it. Usually I would not have noticed. This time however, I wondered if they asked for my consent before deciding take pictures of my number plate. I also wondered if the CCTV took pictures of the driver too.

I arrived earlier than usual so I had to swipe my staff ID card to get into the building.

In my office, I logged into my computer using my username and password.

After opening Outlook, I noticed two emails from central IT department asking feedback on how they handled my query the day before. I thought, hmm, I don’t remember giving you my email address when I called? Then I remembered that they asked for my Staff ID.

Later that day, I had to use another of the university’s support services which I had arranged previously. When I got there, they knew basic information about me which did not bother me because I probably gave it to them; but when later in the conversation, the lady said: “you are a social science researcher, and in my experience researchers tend to want to solve problems using research logics”, I thought, OK, I definitely did not tell you about my work category.

Later that evening, when the automatic barriers let me out, I pondered Jones et al’s conclusion. When I was not aware of which authentication technologies I used at work, I would definitely have said no to some of them and how they linked my professional/personal information. But now that I am aware I have been using them all along, what do I think?

Ref: Jones L.A., Anton, A.I, Earp J.B. (2007) Towards Understanding User Perceptions of Authentication Technologies.  Available at http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1314352

 Jasmine Harvey