Recently my phone died. Not a slow death, but rather immediate and unexpected. Thankfully I had a recent backup and was able to use it to load up my new phone. However, for various online sites I use 2 step authentication using various authentication apps. It works well until your phone dies or you lose it. The authentication connections don’t transfer over to my new phone. And it has proven to be a hugely challenging issue to resolve.
And here’s the thing. I use the authenticator apps for many of things I deem to be most important to be kept secure. Being locked out of them for days and weeks is a problem. Now there may be an easy solution to this, I just don’t know it (if you know it, please tell me!).
It makes me wonder about digital vaccine records, travel passes, wallets, and so on. Part of me is a big fan of these. However, I am well aware they do perpetuate and even expand the inequality in our societies. They generally require a smartphone running a certain operating system which requires a certain level of income. And tends to assume a certain level of connectivity.
Additionally, my recent experience with my phone death raises questions too. Of course we want things to be secure. So there is a part of me that is happy my authentication connections don’t transfer over to a new phone. However, at the same time, I’m annoyed, locked out, and frustrated.
And the answer can’t be remember some code that is given to you when you first set it up. There are countless examples of bad design in this space, we need some good examples.
Good design needs to account for everyday life. The challenge is everyday life is different for most of us. If we are going to move into a world of digital vaccine records, we need to account for lost phones, for no phones, and so on. And yes, I know people will tell us this has been thought about, designed in. But my challenge is this – does the final design have multiple options and do these options work for the most vulnerable of our society? If not, or you don’t know with certainty, go back to the drawing board.
Digital is great until it breaks. We need a plan for when it breaks. Multiple plans. Plans for the everyday.