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A popular app that promised to eliminate the burden of remembering passwords has sparked a backlash by demanding, weeks after it was acquired by two private equity firms, that users pay up or face restrictions on access to their online accounts.
LastPass has encouraged millions of people to replace weak passwords on retail websites, Internet banks and other online services. Instead, the software handles authentication automatically using long, complex passwords that are impossible to guess—or remember.
Two investment firms, Elliott Management and Francisco Partners, acquired the service as part of their $4.3 billion buyout of Internet software group LogMeIn in September last year.
Now, the app is warning users that they must pay as much as $36 a year if they want access to those cumbersome passwords on all their devices. Those who refuse to pay will have to choose between synching only to their desktop computers, or only to mobile devices such as phones.
The change, which comes into effect on March 16, was a blow to Scott Rothrock, a Tokyo-based software developer who said he realized at once that “there was no way to go back to my old life in a practical manner.”
Before switching to the password manager some years ago, Rothrock used a memorable algorithm to devise passwords that mixed up letters from the web addresses he visited with punctuation marks and the names of mythical beasts.
Now, his LastPass-generated passwords “are, I’m uncomfortable to admit, only known to my password manager. LastPass’s policy change was, for me, an ultimatum.”
The move to limit what LastPass gives away for free underscores how financially sophisticated owners are seeking to wring more profit from popular Silicon Valley products.
Last month Twitter said it would experiment with tools that allow users to give tips or pay for exclusive content, ideas that could allow the microblogging platform to take a cut of the revenue.
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