I can’t pretend to know how companies and programs come up with temporary passwords, but something tells me that they should at least be able to ensure that certain letters don’t wind up together ... like n-i-g-g-a.
Except that’s exactly what happened to one black woman in Seattle, Wash. who requested a temporary password for her online account with Puget Sound Energy, a utility company in the state.
According to Kiro7, Erica Conway believes that the slur was targeted.
“I clicked forgot password and got a temporary password from PSE and it was capital N-I-G-G-A and I was quite shocked,” she told the station. “It was like an emotional roller coaster. Shock, disbelief, disgusted, angry. It was just yeah, even now I’m just kind of like I cannot believe this. I just can’t believe it.
“I was truly in disbelief because I was like this is not normal and this is not what a temporary password is supposed to say,” she added.
To add insult to well ... insult, Conway says that when she called in her complaint, a customer service agent did not take the issue seriously.
“I had said ‘Do you guys screen out certain words?’ and Lydia was, like, ‘Yes we do.’ And I said, ‘Well you guys didn’t screen out this word’ And she said, ‘Why would we?’ and I said, ‘What do you mean why would we? This is an offensive word.’ And she stated to me, ‘No one uses that word anymore.’ And I was, like, where are you living, what planet are you living on?’” she explained.
Janet Kim, a spokeswoman for the company, told KIRO7 something different.
“This was offensive, there was no question about that, we apologize to this customer, the community, for what has happened, and we are trying to do what we can to make it right,” she said.
PSE added that the slur was a mistake that was computer generated.
“These passwords are generated automatically so they go straight from the system straight to the customers. So, it’s not able to be accessed by an employee,” Kim added.
The company says it has taken steps to ensure that temporary passwords are a random mix of letters and numbers, and it will employ a new system that does not require temporary passwords, starting next month.
However, the damage has already been done, at least to Conway.
“This is 2018; we’re still dealing with issues like this,” Conway said “It’s pretty sad. As a society, it’s pretty sad.”