Today’s column is written by Matt Rosenberg, senior vice president of marketing at 140 Proof.
Facebook has heard its users loud and clear: They want more control over their privacy.
So Facebook changed the default audience for new users to automatically share with friends only, instead of the entire Internet, the company announced in a recent blog post. Facebook also unveiled a new and expanded “privacy checkup” from a friendly-looking blue dinosaur, a public posting reminder and prominently displayed audience selectors.
But of all these changes, anonymous login has made the biggest waves in the tech community. It allows users to log in to other apps using their Facebook user name and password, but won’t allow the app to see their personal information. Facebook will still know all, such as which apps you’ve tried, kept and ignored, but it’s a step in the right direction.
It appears that the only people unhappy with this change would be the third-party apps community. They’re losing access to valuable data that allowed them to sell targeted ads, and the only way they can get it back is to go through Facebook. Mashable called this a “brilliant business move,” noting that it was “probably no coincidence” that the company also announced its new advertising platform at the same time that it allowed users to put the kibosh on sharing their data.
Let’s not be too quick to pass judgment. Anonymous logins won’t create widespread damage to the ecosystem. While some third-party apps could suffer, of course, many won’t be impacted at all. Often the reason users are asked to sign in with their social account is because the app’s main value proposition is linked to seeing their connections.
Case in point: Words With Friends and Hinge are useless if they aren’t allowed access to friend lists, which means there’s no way that users would choose to be anonymous. However, any apps that don’t provide an incentive for users to log in via social should do so quickly. Adding options to share content with friends, engage in a dialogue with them or receive curated playlists, for example, will encourage users to drop the cloak of anonymity because there will be a worthy reason to do so.
Another reason third-party apps companies should relax is because they’ve already created a familiar consumer behavior. Many are accustomed to using their Facebook or Twitter passwords for other apps, and they are happy to oblige if it means they have one fewer password to remember. Because this behavior is already familiar, users may instinctively tap the blue “Log in with Facebook” button instead of the black “Log in anonymously” key since that’s what they’ve always used.
The onus is on the third-party apps to uphold their end of the bargain when users choose to reveal identifying information about themselves. Once developers have access to their users’ data, they cannot abuse that privilege. Earning the trust of your audience takes time, but as with any other relationship, losing that trust can happen in seconds. Worthy companies that treat what they know about their users with respect and reward their audience with benefits, whether via utility or better ad experiences, will thrive.
Users should have full control of their personal data. Only they should determine what they’d like to share publicly and what they’d like to keep private. The burden of proving that a company is worthy of a user’s personal information falls to the app developer.
Facebook has taken a step in the right direction by working to win back its users’ trust during our post-Snowden era, but only time will tell if there is still more work to be done.
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