Assistant Professor of Informatics Bonnie Ruberg had her article, “What Is Your Mother’s Maiden Name? A Feminist History of Online Security Questions,” published in the Summer 2017 issue of Feminist Media Histories. This special issue of the international journal focuses on data and feminism. By tracing the evolution of the security question, Ruberg’s article surveys industry writings on authentication protocols from the 1850s to the present, arguing for a re-evaluation of the often-unquestioned logics that perpetuate discrimination through technologies of data.
Read the full abstract from Ruberg’s article below and view the entire article online:
The history of online security questions demonstrates how hegemonic beliefs about gender and sexuality have come to dictate the terms of “authentic” selfhood in contemporary digital spaces. Best known for their role in web-based information management, security questions have a history in North America that stretches back more than a hundred and fifty years—from Irish immigrant banking in New York in the mid-nineteenth century, to the rise of personal computing in the 1970s and 1980s, to today. Across this history, security questions have been structured around heteronormative expectations about users’ lives and relationships. This is nowhere more evident than in the canonical security question, “What is your mother’s maiden name?” To trace the evolution of the security question, this article surveys industry writings on authentication protocols from the 1850s to the present. It argues for a reevaluation of the often-unquestioned logics that perpetuate discrimination through technologies of data.
Feminist Media Histories examines the historical role gender has played in varied media technologies, and documents women’s engagements with these media as audiences, users and consumers, creators and executives, critics, writers and theorists, technicians and laborers, educators, activists, and librarians by publishing original research, oral histories, primary documents, conference reports, and archival news on radio, television, film, video, digital technologies, and other media across a range of historical periods and global contexts.