Over the years, you may have noticed that a lot of websites let you use your Facebook, Google or Twitter account to log into their websites. You don’t have to create a new username or password and a lot of the sites will automatically share your activity on Facebook if you give authorization.
This makes logging into those websites very convenient because you don’t have to create another set of usernames and passwords that you have to remember. For example, you can log into sites like rottentomatoes.com, sears.com, citysearch.com, stackoverflow.com, friendfeed.com, getsatisfaction.com and a million other sites using Facebook, Google or Twitter.
By far, the most popular option is Facebook. Facebook released a set of APIs in 2008 called Facebook Connect that changed how people log into third-party websites. Just about every major sites now lets you use Facebook Connect to log into their websites.
The idea has exploded in popularity and you might be logging into a lot of websites using Facebook without even thinking about it. However, like with everything in the world, there are advantages and disadvantages to this type of login.
The advantages of logging into multiple websites using the same credentials are fairly clear. Here’s what I find to be most useful:
1. No need to remember multiple sets of usernames and passwords for each site.
2. Credentials are less likely to be hacked since they are securely stored with Facebook, Google, or Twitter.
3. Sites are customized to use the Facebook API and therefore make it super easy to share your activity on those sites with your friends and family.
These are the three main advantages to using your current Facebook, Google or Twitter account to log into a third-party website. One of the main benefits I see is the fact that your credentials are more secure with the likes of Google and Facebook. There are a lot of websites that have great services, but don’t follow strict security procedures and can lose your information to hackers. I’ve gotten many emails over the years from companies that had their databases hacked and therefore my account was compromised.
You probably have heard the phrase “Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket” and you’ve probably read online at least once not to use the same password for every website you log into. There are reasons why you hear these statements over and over again.
The disadvantages to using Facebook Connect to login to every website you visit or comment on also are pretty clear:
1. Facebook, Google, Twitter become a single point of failure. If you lose access to any of those accounts, you lose access to all of the sites that rely on that account.
2. Similarly, if your account is hacked, the hacker could potentially see what apps you use on Facebook, etc and then log into those websites as you.
That’s basically the only disadvantage, but it’s a really big one. The fact that you are entrusting that much information to one particular site or service could cause privacy issues later on. Does Facebook, Google and Twitter get to keep all of that information about your activity forever? What happens if they sell it to someone else later on? It’s definitely risky if you don’t like one company to have access to so much information about you.
In the end, you want to diversify. I personally have some websites where I login using Facebook Connect, others using Twitter, others via Google and the rest using the regular website login. This way you’re not relying on one service or company for logging into a bunch of different sites.
Also, note that using Facebook to log into other sites will reduce your privacy because of how data can be posted back and forth between the site and Facebook. If you log into a website using Google or Twitter, there is less chance of that activity being posted to your Twitter feed or on Google+. For whatever reason, Facebook apps that you authorize tend to collect a lot more information and also post that info to your Facebook account.
Even though you probably haven’t heard of many horror stories yet, there are bound to be cases of hacking, theft, outages, lost access, etc as this type of login option becomes more popular. As with everything, try to stay diversified and you’ll be safer on the Internet. Do you use Facebook, Twitter or Google to log into websites? Let us know in the comments. Enjoy!