Jack, I think you’re on to something with your post on The Travesty of Security Questions. In addition to yours, I have my own issues with security questions. Life is complicated and doesn’t offer easy answers to these questions.
First is one you touched on, which is the ambiguity built into seemingly simple questions. For example, when it asks “city where you were born”, does it mean literally the city where the hospital was (which I almost never go to), the city where I grew up and would answer if someone at a party asked “where were you born?”, or the greater metropolitan area (which is what I’d answer if someone from another city asked)? Is the first thing I learned to cook “Italian”, “pasta”, or “pesto”? Is my favorite singer “Mellencamp”, “John Mellancamp”, “John Cougar Mellencamp”, … Yeah, my mind works that way and comes up with multiple correct answers.
Second is answers that change over time, like “favorite” questions. Asking my favorite restaurant or song really means trying think what my favorite was five years ago when I bought my last computer and answered that question.
Third is that many questions don’t guard against ex-friend or pernicious relative hacking, which I’d imagine is a serious problem for some people. Someone who used to know you well and you don’t want hacking your accounts probably knows all sorts of questions about the street you lived on, model of car, name of high school, pets, and maybe “favorite” questions. There are probably a dozen people I know that could answer most of these personal questions about me.
Fourth is that half of them don’t have an answer for me, from favorite film star to childhood nickname.
Since these questions are usually offered in batches of six or so, I have sometimes looked down all of the questions and not found a single one that I can answer consistently. Maybe I have to invent an alter ego with a strong, consistent personality that has led a simple, unambiguous life.