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Don't let Facebook's single sign-on expose your awkward moments

Caitlin McGarry | June 3, 2013
Sites and apps are adding the ability to sign in through Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, but people should be wary of sharing their private lives with big brands.

Sign in

Maybe you've already used your Facebook or Twitter account to sign in to other apps or services, and been burned. Maybe you've watched a NSFW video that a social site then posted to your Facebook Timeline. (Yeah, that happened.) Or maybe you've planned your dream wedding through Pinterest without realizing that your friends could see your activity—and you're not engaged. Or even in a relationship.

Social logins can embarrass you, but they can also make your life easier. Hey, it's one fewer username and password to remember.

Three major brands—Facebook, Google, and Amazon—rule our lives, and make it oh-so-easy to log in to outside apps or make purchases on other sites. Facebook currently dominates in social logins, but Google+ entered the fray in February, and is already nipping at Facebook's heels. Login with Amazon rolled out on Wednesday, so now you can use your Amazon account to shop on non-Amazon sites, play games, and download apps.

Risky business
Facebook knows an awful lot about you. It knows your birthday, your top movies, your favorite music, and your friends. It's a storage locker for all your vacation photos and Instagrammed brunches.

When you use your Facebook ID and password to shop online or log in to an app, you're allowing other brands to access some—but not all—of that info. Facebook's privacy policy outlines which details it shares with third-party apps or sites when you use your Facebook account to log in. The social network shares some of your basic public information, such as your name, cover photos, gender, network, and friends list—as well as any posts or photos you set for public viewing—when you give other sites or apps access to your Facebook account.

Just because Facebook limits the public information it shares doesn't mean that an app you download or a retail site you log in to with your Facebook username won't ask for access to more info (such as the pages you like) or for permissions (such as the ability to post to your wall). This is when you can say no. Google+ and other social networks have similar social-login policies.

Even so, people are still wary of social logins. More than 60 percent of social network users think businesses will sell their profile information if they log in with their social accounts, according to a December 2012 online survey commissioned by social-login company Gigya. Almost 50 percent of users said they would rather skip social logins altogether than risk giving personal info to another site or to an app.

Gigya, which has big-name clients such as Dell, Lush Cosmetics, Nike, and Redbox, had been looking for a way to reassure people that using social logins on those businesses' high-profile sites wasn't harmful. Last December, Gigya introduced a privacy seal, monitored by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Future of Privacy Forum, which it bestows (after a thorough audit, of course) on sites that don't sell their users' social data.


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