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May 23, 2014

On the Horizon: Facebook Anonymous Login

Ever since the advent of Facebook login, app creators and businesses have been able to rely on Facebook login as a reliable source of personal information about the people who use and buy their products. It was simple for the user and enlightening for the business – with a single click of a button, users could create an account or log into a site. In that same click, they would provide everything from their email address to their date of birth, if that’s what the app asked for.

But even though that information is extremely valuable to us, we’re people too, and it’s likely that you’ve hovered over that “sign in with Facebook” button once or twice, wondering whether it was safe to share your personal information with a site you’ve never used.

In an effort to provide users with more privacy, Facebook recently announced Anonymous Login, a new feature that gives its 1.3 billion users the ability to connect with third-party applications without having to share their personal information. Should users subsequently decide that they do want to share information with those apps, they’ll be able to. The new feature simply allows them to proverbially dip their toes into the water before deciding that.

This new functionality has widespread implications for both Facebook users and marketers. Let’s take a look at just what it means.

Anonymous Login for the Facebook User

We, as a society, used to take privacy for granted. As we continue shifting our lives into the digital world, things are becoming more and more connected and, in a word, “traceable.” Last year Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was essentially spying on Americans, and for many, it was an enlightening moment. Many started wondering just who was monitoring their behavior online, and to what purpose.

For the Facebook user, Anonymous Login is a great thing. Of course, the social networking site will still have access to all the information you have provided them, free of charge. But as CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out at the company’s developers conference last month, people are finally starting to realize the importance of their privacy. They want to control who has access to their information.

“Over the years, one of the things we’ve heard over and over again is that people want more control over how they share their information, especially with apps, and they want more say and control over how apps use their data,” Zuckerberg told NPR. “We take this really seriously.”

Many people probably don’t understand how this sharing of personal information works. Although Facebook gives a summary on your first sign in, it can be confusing. App developers can request pretty much anything they want, and if you give them the okay you could be sharing everything from your pictures, a list of your friends and the things you’ve publicly liked. While some of this information is directly used by the service you’ve signed up for, some of it is collected in order to better target their advertising to users like you.

Anonymous Login for the Marketer

The more information that we have, the more likely we are to construct effective campaigns that bolster and increase our bottom lines. So at first glance, marketers might be skeptical about the fact that Facebook has now empowered its users to refrain from divulging the wealth of personal data that the social networking site has stored at its data centers.

In our post-Snowden world, people are becoming increasingly hesitant to give out any more information than they absolutely have to. But there is a bright side to Anonymous Login. Sure, our jobs will become more difficult in the sense that it will be harder to obtain the scores of specifically targeted information from customers than it was prior to the announcement. But the new feature may also allow users to try apps that they may not have otherwise tried due to privacy concerns. Ultimately, it should mean that a greater number of users try our apps.

It does mean, however, that we have our work cut out for us. We need to continue raising the bar with the quality of our content, so that whether users decide to login to our sites anonymously or otherwise won’t matter. The content that marketers should be producing will encourage users to come back no matter what, and to grow comfortable enough with the brand that they don’t mind allowing personal information that they want to allow.

After all, users will still be able to choose whether to share specific information or not. They just won’t have to do it right off the bat.

It’s important to remember that no matter what happens, Facebook will be watching. If you’re married and log in to a dating app anonymously, for example, Zuckerberg and his team will know. While Anonymous Login grants users the illusion of privacy, their actions are never really private in the sense that Facebook is still the All Seeing Eye no matter what company brass say.

While Anonymous Login might let you access information that piques your curiosity without fear of your friends being unfairly targeted by marketers or someone getting access to scores of your personal information, the fact of the matter remains that regardless of what you do online, you should expect that someone will be watching. In today’s digital age, there’s no such thing as privacy. Just the illusion of privacy, which Facebook is doing a great job of selling.


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Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like Seoul Foreign School succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.

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