“Would you like to login through your Facebook or Twitter account?” I’ll bet that all of you have seen this message before. This question probably pops up for me at least 10 times a week and almost every one of those 10 times I say yes, but as more and more applications, websites and platforms become intertwined through this system whereby Facebook is the universal gatekeeper, I can’t say that I don’t get nervous. When I think back to how I became so willing to hand over my information and secure login responsibilities to Facebook (as some people also do with Twitter), it is entirely based around my exhaustion surrounding new usernames, passwords, and security questions. At the start it was Spotify asking permission and I allowed it wholeheartedly; sharing music with friends by linking to Facebook seemed like a win win, and one shared login was a caveat I could definitely live with. However, I did not realize the domino effect that this would have on my willingness to hand over almost ALL login responsibilities to Facebook, and it was because other social media type accounts require EVERYTHING that Facebook already has and allowing them to use my account would save me from putting in all the bits of personal information and profile pictures.
So here we are, today I have over 25 external apps and or websites that use Facebook as a login stand-in…and I’m not sure how I feel about that number growing. Social Networks are more and more becoming the arbiters of our internet experience rather than just being one of the many sites to visit.
I am so reliant on Facebook that if I were to swear off the social network’s direct site I would still need them for so much of my everyday electronic life. Signing into the Wall Street Journal, yep; checking out the local concerts with Bandsintown, uh-huh; and logging into wordpress to write this blog…wait, I can’t remember if I used facebook to sign up for WordPress, and that’s part of the problem. I’ve become so dependent on Facebook to take so many of these responsibilities away from me that I am forgetting information from the few times that it is not an option at all; with this function I would say that Facebook has created a new effect, not of switching costs (because who the heck are you gonna switch to, I mean c’mon), but of quitting costs; it is how they get us addicted to them, by making us think we need them. They count on the fact that we won’t want to deal with the fuss and bother of sorting out our online security presence and the fallout that would occur if the services that our personal accounts perform are deactivated. For example, what happens to my Spotify social account once Facebook goes, and so on, like a house of cards.
All that being said, Facebook has so much to gain from our reliance on them. They know what services we use even if they are siloed from accessing the information from those 3rd party providers. They know when I decided to download twitter, uber, and renew subscriptions and this data alone better helps them target me for ads and use me in order to compile big data about other customers like me. Given the vast breadth of security implications that would arise should any of facebook’s data and own security measures became compromised, it would seem like people’s nerves would be fraying about the lack of control they have…but we don’t, because we don’t want to think about it. It’s much easier to push those thoughts into the corner while we hastily click the login with Facebook or Twitter option and move on with our lives.
This isn’t necessarily a huge impending problem, but as we inevitably continue to grant more and more wide reaching powers to these giants of data collection we should have a more collaborative existence with them which provides clarity in regards to their roles and the information that they are able to glean from us. I for one would prefer some transparency surrounding the information that they gain and choose to use either passively or through shared data with apps and services which they actively manage day in and day out. If these companies are going to act partly as our digital stewards, they should provide more clarity about all the ways which they benefit from our information.
How many of you have given Facebook the keys to your digital kingdom and how many of you are concerned with what they have done and might do with this information? I’m not insinuating any gross misconduct on the part of these tech leaders, just maybe some more gray area use of our data.