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Beware the digital eviction

10 January 2019

We are the masters of technology.

Actually, that's not quite right. In fact, it's dead wrong!

We are more the slaves of technology than its masters.

You might like to think that things such as smartphones, email and other hi-techery empower us to do things we've never been able to do before. These devices and services allow us to transfer money at the blink of an eye, contact friends and family around the world for less than the price of a store-bought coffee each day, and to save hours and hours every week.

But what happens when something bad happens to your digital connection to the world.

No, I'm not talking about your smartphone breaking or your email server going down -- I'm talking about being digitally evicted from your comfortable existence.

What is a digital eviction?

Well here is a wonderful example of digital eviction.

As anyone who's had to deal with Google, whatever hat it is wearing at the time, knows -- this corporation has a very effective firewall around its people that effectively renders them "unreachable".

There is no contact email address you can use if you're having problems with your YouTube account. There's no "help form" to fill in if your GMail account is having a hissy-fit.

No, Google hides all its people away in such a manner that there is only "Google" and it is simply a monolithic corporation without face or voice.

The woman in the story linked above has now realised this and her case is a prime example of how much a life can be disrupted when a key (I would say "essential") service such as your primary email address is lost and there's nobody to help.

As pointed out in the news story, she's now missing very important emails relating to bills that must be paid, meetings that should be attended and such. What's more, when you stop and think about it... there are now a *lot* of things that rely on you having access to your primary email address...

Forgotten your password to a site? Most will have an option that emails a new temporary password to your registered email address. So what do you do when that address is no longer accessible to you?

Using something like Patreon? If you try to log in using a new/different device, they will send an email to your registered email address containing a verification link that must be clicked before you'll be allowed in. No access to that address? Too bad!

Another great example of digital eviction might be the loss of your mobile phone, especially if you're on a pre-pay plan and you haven't kept all the little numbers that are used to uniquely identify the device, your SIM card and such -- hence forcing you to adopt a new number when you buy a replacement.

Increasingly, many websites are using two-factor authentication and that often involves sending an SMS message to your registered phone number before allowing you to log in.

Problem: you suddenly can't log in to change the number to which the SMS is sent because you don't get the SMS required to gain access in the first place.

What's more, if you are deemed to be making an "unusual" transaction by your online banking system, they may send you an SMS with a confirmation code. If you've changed numbers and forgotten to update that seldom-used information then you'll also be stuck -- since it's unlikely that the security system will allow you to change your phone number when there's a security message pending to the old one.

Losing your email address or your phone number has the potential to be a major disruption to your digital life -- so be careful and guard these things vigilantly!

I'd love to hear from any readers who might have found themselves inconvenienced by the loss of an email address, phone or phone number. What happened and how did you deal with the issues it created?

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