Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
July 2020
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Unhelpful security questions

Dear Apple

I presume there is a sensible and Very Important Reason for suddenly requiring me to select some security questions for my iTunes store account.

However, you appear to have failed Designing Security Questions 101. In fact, you appear not to have even enrolled in it.

I struggled to pick suitable questions from your options for my first two questions, but eventually I settled on a couple. However, then I was supposed to pick a third and final question. I presume you thought that giving me five options would increase the chances of finding one that would suit me. Well, let’s explain what’s wrong with that theory.

Which of the cars you have owned has been your least favourite?
I liked them all. And, besides, if I decide that it was my Lamborghini Countach*, will it matter if I spell it with upper or lower case letters, and what if I decide to recall it as my “Lamborghini” or my “Countach” instead of “Lamborghini Countach”? Where is the guarantee of uniqueness in my answer?

Who was your least favourite teacher?
I don’t have one. Or if I did, I can’t remember who it is/was right now. And there’s certainly no guarantee that I will remember tomorrow (or, if I do remember a least favourite tomorrow, it may not even be the same person!). This question can’t guarantee a unique answer either.

Where was your least favourite job?
I haven’t had a least favourite job, either. Or, if I go with “garbage collector”** then is the answer to “Where?” (i) “the streets of Laredo”, (ii) “Texas”, or (iii) “back of a garbage truck”? Too much ambiguity, again.

In which city did my father and mother meet?
Since I don’t know for sure, I suppose I could ask them but there’s no guarantee that I’d remember anyway. And who said it was a city? There goes option number four.

Where was I on January 1 2000?
I can’t remember. As it happens, however, I am a chronic chronicler, which means I can find out. So I went and looked it up, and apparently I was in several places: Paris, Moscow, New York, Cape Town, Shijiazhuang, and Murdunna***. Which one do I pick?

Finally, you have not even given me the option to construct my own question.

So, Apple, although I have quite appreciated some of what you have offered, my failure to pick a third security question seems to render me unable to further partake in the iTunes experience.

Which is a pity, because I need to update Angry Birds.****

Yours sincerely



* Alright, it was a Porsche 911.

** Alright, I haven’t been a garbage collector (and certainly not in Texas; this came about because “on the streets” suddenly sounded better as “the streets of Laredo”), but I’ve had a cleaning job, and it was quite satisfying.

*** Alright, although it was several places, it was none of those listed. Not even Murdunna.

**** Alright, I’ve mostly given up Angry Birds. But you know what I mean.

4 comments to Unhelpful security questions

  • Colin C

    πŸ™‚ I recently had my eldest son thrust his iDevice in my face, saying “This has come up!” Aaaaaarrrgggggg! “What is your Name?”
    “What is your Quest?”
    “What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

    ‘Tis madness!

  • Matthew Cengia

    I haven’t been asked these outrageous questions yet, but coincidentally, I *was* just today (several times) trying up update my AppleID email address from the Yahoo address I’m trying to deprecate to the Gmail address I’m trying to make ubiquitous. Since I previously had my Gmail address as an “alternate” address, the AppleID website (https://appleid.apple.com.au) reloaded the page and showed me *no* feedback when I tried to switch the two, and doing similar from iTunes complained that my primary and secondary addresses couldn’t be the same, even after I’d *deleted* the secondary address! What’s up with that!? I’m not bitter. Much. Sometimes.

    P.S. I hope it doesn’t ask *me* about crazy security questions too! That’ll be all I need.

  • Yeah, they really should give you the option of making your own question!

  • Murray

    I had the same dilemma with the question just a few days ago. My problem, apart from the fact that I would probably forget the answers or choose a different best car etc., is that over time, some of the answers may change. For example, if my favourite car is my current car, if it becomes unreliable, I might pick a previous car as my best. Or I could buy a new one which could become my favourite.

    Yes, Apple, pathetically chosen questions. If ever I need to verify who I am, I think I’ll fail the test.

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