Friday, 12 March 2010

What's Yours Probably Isn't On The Internet

Last year I had some issues with logging into my Flickr account. I had let Firefox log me in automatically on all of my systems for a long time, but then for some reason the browser on my desktop system forgot the cookie. It was then that I found out that none of the passwords I normally use worked and I couldn't be sure whether I had just forgotten the password I had set or that it was something else. Then when I tried to reset the password via my laptop on which I was still logged in I had to fill in my password first. When I clicked 'cancel' on this procedure it had already logged me out.

First I tried to use the recovery wizard, which asked me for some details my profile would contain. I filled this one in to the best of my abilities (birth date and such data) to which it responded that it couldn't match the data. That's when I tried to email Yahoo (owner of Flickr) support. All they did was ask me for the answer to the security question ('What is your favourite past-time?'), a question to which I had filled in the answer many years ago and which I obviously didn't remember. All I could tell them was that it should be related to science and/or technology. That wasn't enough and that's as far as I got then.

Last week I got an email from Flickr, sent to one of my primary email accounts, so obviously that one was still registered with it. Since it was a friend request I thought I'd give the support system another whirl since I'd feel bad about not answering the request and now I knew which email address was registered with the Flickr account.

Yet to no avail, as you can see in the resulting conversation:

---
Hello Maya,

Thanks for writing to Yahoo! UK Customer Care.

I understand you are experiencing issues while trying to log in to your flickr Yahoo! account. I apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you. I will do our best to rectify this issue.

In order to assist you further, we need to verify the answer to your security question associated with your Yahoo! account.

The security question listed on this account is:

What is your favorite past-time?

Please send us the answer you entered when you set up your account or when you last updated it. We will then be able to verify and update your information.

If you are having difficulty remembering your answer, please be sure to provide a list of all possible answers so we can manually verify them with the answer listed on the account.

We look forward to your reply.

Regards,

Merry
Customer Care - Yahoo! UK& Ireland
---

---
This is futile, I can't for the life of me remember what security question/answer I used when I signed up. I went through this the last time already as well.

Why isn't it enough that I am the owner of the primary email account connected to the Flickr account and am still receiving messages from Flickr on it? Why can't you just send a password reset to this email address? I really don't want to receive emails from a Flickr account I can't reach any longer if you can't do this.


Maya
---

---
I appreciate your cooperation and patience, and hope that you will accept my apologies for the inconvenience you have experienced so far.

In order for us to proceed we need for you to provide us with the answer to the Security Question.

The security question listed on this account is:

What is your favorite past-time?

The question and answer is an important security tool for Yahoo! accounts.

In keeping with this security feature, the online forgot password system will only accept the answer exactly as you had entered it when you first registered or last updated your account information. Capitalisation, however, is not a factor. Some common causes of answers being rejected online are missing words, missing punctuation, abbreviations, misspellings, etc..

While you may have tried answers that didn't work online, we kindly ask that you take the time to provide us with a short list of possible answers. Once received, we will manually verify your answers against those listed on the account.

Please reply to this email with this information as it was entered when you originally established your account or when you updated your information.

We look forward to assisting you with this account.

Regards,

Merry
---

---
As I said, I really can't think of what the answer may be. It was most likely something related to technology and/or science. It was over 3 years ago or so when I created the account and far longer than that when I created the Yahoo account with its associated password.

Since you people insist on only using security questions unlike every other site where I have had to recover/reset a password, could you please do something about the Flickr account if I won't be able to ever access it again? I'd very much like to keep a presence on Flickr, but I don't want some ghost account there, and I'd like to see it deleted so that I can recreate it, or else have this email account disassociated so that I at the very least won't get continuous emails from a ghost account.

Thank you for your help,


Maya
---

---
Hello Maya,

Thanks for writing to Yahoo! UK Customer Care.

I have read your email and I understand the problem you are experiencing.
Unfortunately we must adhere to the procedures we have in place for the security of our user's accounts. When you signed our terms of service you agreed that it is your own responsibility to keep a record of the information needed for your Identification. Unfortunately we cannot allow negotiation when it comes to the account verification process. Without the proper verification information, we may be unable to provide further assistance.

Please let me know if I can help you further.

Regards,
Sabrina
---

So in short I'll never be able to regain my Flickr account or any of the Yahoo services I used before until I somehow manage to guess either the password or the security answer. Also, it is my fault for not remembering and/or writing down either. Why they can't just send a new password to my email address I absolutely can't imagine, as it's a common method with countless other sites and companies.

Now, I didn't have anything truly important on my Flickr account, just some photos I got published elsewhere as well, and I haven't used my Yahoo email account or related for at least four years or so, it is the principle behind this whole matter which frightens me.

Basically at any point in time a company can say that the account you have with them isn't yours and unless you happen to know the right way back in, you're basically screwed unless you were to start a civil court case or so. It doesn't matter if you have photos on your account you forgot to backup anywhere else, a few thousand Euro, virtual game points worth hundreds, or something else which is precious enough that you'd really like to get it back. It may not even be yourself who wants it back, but one of your loved ones after you pass on from this world.

When you get a hosting account you sign a contract, as do you when you get a new phone with a service plan. This gives you guarantees as to what your rights are and most countries have strict laws regarding what 'proper service' means in this context. With online services it generally doesn't go beyond a Terms of Service which you accept when you make a new account. The legal standing of TOSs is dubious at best, much like with their cousin, the EULA, or End-User License Agreement.

I got a personal site on which I have my gallery and basically everything but this blog. If the hosting company suddenly decided to shut down my account without me having done anything as outrageous as posting illegal, pornographic or similar rancid stuff on it, I would be fully in my right to ask them to restore service and drag them to court if they don't. This luxury wouldn't exist if Google decided that my Blogger account violated their TOS. I'd be a long way up the infamous creek without anything resembling a paddle.

Fortunately I have a backup of everything I have ever posted on my blog and could restore it all within a day. I guess the lesson to take home from this all is to treat services whereby one doesn't sign a legally binding contract to treat as something disposable, and to never rely on it in any form or shape without at least having a backup plan or two ready.

Don't forget that if something is free, you're probably only costing them money by using the service and they'll be more than happy to see you go. Just don't cause a ruckus which could cause them even more money. Like me posting this on my blog. Sorry about that, Yahoo.


Maya

1 comment:

Tania said...

http://www.nu.nl/opmerkelijk/2205343/australier-officieel-man-noch-vrouw.html