Uncharacteristically, Facebook Will Act as an Anonymous Login for Other Services

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 1 2014 11:16 AM

Uncharacteristically, Facebook Will Act as an Anonymous Login for Other Services

fbanonymous
You won't have to share personal data to log in anymore.

Photo from Facebook.

Sometimes, to use an app or website, you're prompted to log in right away. You can create a username and password, sure, but there's often another option to log in with your Google or Facebook account. And it can be tempting to simplify things this way. But your accounts with Google and Facebook probably have a lot of personal data attached to them, and you may not want to give it all to this new service.

At a developer conference on Wednesday, Facebook announced that it is taking on the problem by creating more granular controls for what you show each service and, uncharacteristically, offering a new Anonymous Login option.

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Facebook is banking that offering anonymity won't reduce the amount of personalized data users are generating. These measures seem like part of a larger effort to show users that Facebook prioritizes privacy. "We understand that people have felt that Facebook privacy has changed too much in the past," Michael Nowak, a product manager on Facebook's privacy team, said last month. "We're grounding our product development roadmap in [user] feedback."

Anonymous Login allows you to experience a website or app as if you have logged in more substantially, but without giving anything away. It might help you decide whether you want to use the service long term, or just give you the freedom of knowing that the service doesn't have any of your information. Anonymous Login will be rolling out slowly as Facebook gives more and more developers access to it.

If you eventually decide to login with your actual Facebook information, you can control what personal data a service has access to, and Facebook promises that services won't be able to post to your Facebook without separate, explicit permission from you. Facebook says, "With the new Login, people can select the data an app gets by unchecking categories of information, one by one. For example, if someone wants to share their email address with an app, but not their birthday, they can make that choice with a couple taps."

There's even a new dashboard where you can see and manage all of the apps and services where you are logged in or using Anonymous Login. The specificity of this control is all part of an effort to make users feel like their data is safe and they have power over it. The company seems to be hoping that options to restrict access will actually make users feel more comfortable sharing info with Facebook.

fbapps
The new dashboard for managing apps you've logged into through Facebook.

Photo from Facebook.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.