June 21, 2004

Locks Hide Nothing in India

User interfaces are one of my main areas of interest, so I cannot help but comment on the usability of locks in India. Below, you see a picture of the lock on my door which is representative of every door lock that I've seen in India. There are two parts to the lock: there is the bolt that slides to the left and fits into a hole in the left doorframe, and then there is the padlock that holds it in place so you can't slide the bolt back. "Hmm, that's different," I thought when I first saw it. "I wonder why they chose to do it that way?" Try to figure out the answer to that question before you continue reading.

The Lock on My Door in the Visitor's Hostel

In my evaluation, there is no good reason to make locks like this for people's rooms! The first issue is security. When I'm in my room, my door is obviously unlocked on the outside. Thus, anyone walking by could slide the bolt across, or if they were even more malicious, put their own padlock on my door! How would I be able to get out of my room? I've looked over the edge of my balcony, and looks like a long way down...

The second issue is privacy. If I'm in my room, then there must not be a padlock on my door, and if I'm not in my room, then my door is probably (though not necessarily) padlocked. This means that if a Jehovah's Witness comes to my door and I want to pretend like I'm not home, I can't because he sees no lock on my door, so he knows I must be in here. Therefore, he can just lean on my doorbell (which sounds like I just lost my turn while playing Operation) until he forces me to the surface.

So are there any advantages to this system? Perhaps these locks are cheaper, but I can't think of any other reason to use them. When I pointed out my lock concerns to someone here, he said that people here trust each other enough that they don't worry about things like that. I guess that as a computer science person, that isn't a good enough answer for me.

Posted by Michael at 11:54 PM | Comments (6)