It happens all the time: you’re visiting a new website and need to create a login and password before you can take the next steps. Maybe you’re trying to get a recipe from a popular cooking blog, or perhaps you’re ready to make an online purchase from your favorite store.
If you don’t have the time (or patience) to complete a profile with yet another password you’ll have remember, there’s a good chance that – if given the option – you’ll sign in using your Facebook or Google credentials instead. But is it a good idea?
That depends on how comfortable you are with letting a third party website – in most cases Google or Facebook – share your personal information with other websites and apps.
In terms of convenience, the answer is a definite “yes.” The ability to remember usernames and passwords is becoming an art form as we rely more and more on apps for everything from buying groceries to paying the parking meter. And as the need for safer, stronger password combinations grows, it may get even more difficult to remember which you created for every single app.
Using Facebook or Google to log in to other websites can also be the safer option, especially if you’re on a website that doesn’t have substantial antihacking measures in place. When you use your Google or Facebook credentials, you get the benefit of their security protocols as well.
There are, however, some things you should know before quickly defaulting to the Facebook or Google sign-in option, especially if you feel strongly about how much information you’re sharing about yourself online.
Stolen or forgotten passwords = big headaches
While signing into websites under the umbrella of Google or Facebook can allow for greater security, there is one time when that rule doesn’t apply: when your personal information gets stolen.
Unfortunately, hackers and identity thieves are still out there, and they are getting savvier all the time. If the username and password you use for Google or Facebook gets stolen, it gives the thief an open door to make purchases in your name and otherwise compromise your online life.
Another major migraine can arise if you fail to remember your Google or Facebook password, and yes, it can happen, usually after you reset it in haste and fail to write down the new credentials somewhere. If you have not created a back-up security measure to retrieve your password, you’re out of luck and will need to find other ways of logging into your apps.
Bottom line: Think twice before relying solely Google and Facebook when logging into all your apps. And always safeguard (and remember) your log in credentials.
You’re sharing more information than you may think.
Facebook, especially, has come under fire in recent years for not being transparent enough about the information they share with other websites. If you log in to a third party website via Facebook, be prepared to have your profile name and photo shared. On Google, your email address and mobile number are usually shared.
Often, however, more of your personal information is shared. If you sign in to rideshare or food delivery apps through Google and have Google Wallet, for example, Google will give them access to make paying simpler. And if you use Facebook to sign in to a website like TripAdvisor, you may see hotel and restaurant reviews written by the friends you follow (whether you want to or not).
How to control what you share
Before you start worrying that everyone on Facebook has read your one-star review of that restaurant you dined at in Chicago last March, know that you can control what information Google and Facebook shares with other websites.
For Facebook, when you first log in to an app or website with your credentials, you’ll see an option to “edit the info you provide.” If you click this, you’ll find a laundry list of items Facebook would like to share, from your friends list to your birthday. Here you can uncheck boxes for every item you wish to remain private (except your profile).
Google is very transparent about what apps want from your log in credentials, but it is important to note that the search engine does not have as robust opt-out options as Facebook.
The more you know about how Google and Facebook use your information, and how to control what they share, the more comfortable you’re likely to feel logging in to websites via their platform.
Of course, you always have the option of creating a new username and password for every website and app you use that requires one. In this case, don’t forget your credentials.