Facebook Anonymous Login Keeps Info Private– From Apps

Last week’s reintroduction of the annual Facebook developers conference, dubbed “F8”, brought the world a few news-worthy innovations from the social networking giant– namely, as previously discussed here, the Facebook Audience Network (“FAN”) and an app deep-linking standard known as App Links. While both of these announcements made for big stories in both advertising and developer communities, one of the most popular topics on Twitter and elsewhere following the conference was the news of Facebook Anonymous Login. 

What is Facebook Anonymous Login?

As anyone familiar with Facebook will attest, trying out new apps on the social network has always been a bit of a pain– if not, a risk of one’s identity. Historically, test-driving an app meant first sharing all of your FB-related information with a third-party developer. This has led to a Facebook user’s friends list getting spammed, and even worse for developers, often may prevent people from signing up for these apps at all.

At the core of this issue has been the historic inability for FB users to edit just which portions of their data they share with these apps. The app developers themselves choose what data you share– there’s no middle ground. If you do not choose to share certain aspects of your profile with these apps, you simply could not using them.

With Facebook Anonymous Login, the company will roll out the ability for FB users to actually select, line-by-line, what data they share with third-party apps & websites using FB login. Though not specifically stated, the name itself implies that people will also be able to choose to share none of their personal information with apps in order to give them a try. There has been nothing outlined as for how little data will actually be limited in order for apps to be used, but I imagine, at least your name will be a requirement.

Facebook Anonymous Login just might get users to be more willing to test apps, too– according to research published in the NY Times, internet users are more likely to share personal information if they are given the appearance of an option. Simply put, given the chance to control what pieces of information to share, people are more willing to share in general.

What It’s Not

Despite having “anonymous” right in the name, there has been no indication that this new privacy control will have any impact on the data shared with Facebook when you use your credentials to log-in to a third-party app or website. In fact, I’d be shocked if Facebook ever launched an initiative to allow users to share less data with itself. Data is king at Facebook, and given they are allowing these apps access to their walled-garden, there has to be something in it for them.

Over time, I can envision apps & websites offering some sort of “freemium” model, in which they’ll allow you to use their services, at a basic level, anonymously– however, to have access to additional features, more of your data would need to be shared. It’s inevitable, in fact, that some apps will engage in this sort of business model.

The “illusion” of privacy, however, offered by Facebook with Anonymous Login might just be enough to get skittish users to try out additional apps & websites using Facebook credentials, which, if successful, can help further the company’s mission to be involved with more of the user experience both in and outside of the social network itself.