Recycling email addresses

I received an email from AISel in my inbox this morning that my paper "IT Portfolio Management: A Framework for Making Strategic IT Investment Decisions" had received 2 new downloads in the past month.

I had obviously never written nor published a paper, and after a little digging, i found out that my comp.nus.edu.sg email was actually used by a former SoC student. SoC removes the accounts of students who have graduated, and makes the username available to new students. He included the email as a contact detail in his paper and hence i am receiving his emails.

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This episode has made me wonder about the potential implications. What if he had used this email to register on several sites? I could have used the forget password feature and gain access to his accounts. This has indeed happened before, resulting in the release of confidential and sensitive data from Twitter.1With most of our graduates working in the IT field, it is indeed a highly plausible situation. Coupled with the fact that SoC does not explicitly inform us that the account given to us is only temporary and will be recycled, i can envision the flurry 4 years later, when they realise that their account is to be deleted, having registered for numerous websites under this account and having to change the email address on all their accounts. So please do think twice before leaving digital trails of your SoC email account.

Perhaps in 50 years time, there will be 20 papers attributed to different authors, but all having the same email address.

1. http://www.edibleapple.com/2009/07/21/how-a-hacker-used-hotmail-to-hack-into-twitter/