When you surf the web, you’re likely seeking information or entertainment. You don’t want to spend time setting up new accounts at one website after another, each with another password you have to keep track of. So the quicker path can be tempting when a site offers you the option of logging in using an existing social media account such as Facebook or Google. Using the same social media login all over the web is convenient, but is it a good idea?
What’s the Risk?
Linking to your social media accounts saves businesses from having to set up a login for you but, more importantly, it allows them to collect information about you. You’ve probably noticed the popup windows stating that, in return for using your social media login, you’re granting permission for the site to access your account information. That can include personal information such as your birthday, friends, job, etc. but also your habits and preferences. (For example, Facebook knows what you’ve viewed and what you’ve “Liked.”) Sites may use your info to create a personalized experience for you, but there are other risky or annoying things they could do with it.
The first concern is how long the business is keeping the information from your social media account and how well they protect it while it’s in their possession. The more places your information lives, the more places it could be stolen from in a data breach. The second concern is how the business will use it to target unwanted advertising to you or your friends. For example, some sites, such as Turntable.fm music player, don’t let you just create an account—they make you log in with Facebook or Twitter so that they can post to your profile about what you’re doing on their site.
Stay in Control
Even if you choose to use a social media account as a login, you can control what that business can see and use. Facebook doesn’t require you to agree to information sharing to use your account as a login, so if you have the option, don’t approve sharing. Then use your privacy settings to restrict access to your personal information through other websites. For example, another site can’t make public information that’s not public on your Facebook page.
You can also control what apps and websites post about you. For example, games often want to post your scores on social media, but you can refuse or change your settings to block this. Facebook also lets you set the “Posts on your behalf” setting to “Only Me”, so if an app or website does post something, nobody will actually see it. Each social media platform is different, so check the privacy settings to see how you can control use by other sites and apps. And, as always, be sure to regularly prune your online accounts and apps: if you haven’t used one in a while, you’re better off getting rid of it.