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Privacy Concerns Keep Users Away From Social Sign-In

Despite convenience of social sign-in, privacy questions loom

January 18, 2013

First came social sharing, then came social login. By now, the vast majority of internet users have encountered an online site with the “Log in with” button alongside a social network logo, allowing them to sign in using their network credentials.

There are plenty of benefits to using social sign-in, for both users and brands. For online companies, social sign-in provides a portal to a user’s social data, while for consumers, it’s faster than filling out yet another web registration form and easier than having to come up with—and remember—another set of login credentials.

But still a significant percentage of users don’t click.

According to December data from Gigya, a company that builds social sign-in infrastructure for brands, 47% of US internet users have never logged in to a website or mobile app using social sign-in.

Among the respondents who did sign in using Facebook, Twitter or the like, convenience was the No. 1 motivating factor, Gigya found. Internet users have an ever-expanding number of login IDs and passwords. Among those who use social login, being able to simply use a known network combination and bypassing lengthy registration forms were each cited by over half of respondents.

Benefits of Social Login According to US Internet Users, Dec 2012 (% of respondents)

A much smaller but not inconsequential subset, representing presumably the most engaged social users, said they specifically used social login to share content and activity with connections, a welcome mindset for brands.

Of those who choose not to use social sign-in, privacy concerns underlie their hesitations. Respondents who bypassed social sign-in told Gigya that concern over personal information being transferred or used inappropriately were among their top concerns.

In addition, simply not wanting one’s every online move posted to social networks—whether registering for a dating website, submitting to a contest or searching for a recipe—was named by four out of 10 respondents as the reason they avoided the feature. While not all social logins automatically update a user’s feed, it is often not obvious to users which do and which don’t—and based on what permissions.

Reasons US Internet Users Bypass Social Login, Dec 2012 (% of respondents)

Consumer misinformation and poor practices among companies, then, are probably having a significant impact on social sign-in use. More than six out of 10 respondents believed that businesses that acquired social data through social login would sell it to third parties, the study found. And half of users assumed companies would spam their social network friends.

To mitigate these concerns while still getting the most out of social sign-in, brands may need to make their privacy practices clearer. Half of respondents said an explanation of how social login data would be used would make them comfortable using the service—assuming data use is up to privacy-best-practices snuff.

As questions of privacy loom throughout the internet, companies will need to do a better job of handling data responsibly, and educating consumers about what they do and do not do, if they hope to continue gathering information on users and self-policing their efforts.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Gannett Delivers Multichannel Digital Ads for Local Businesses” and “Three Out of Four UK Mobile Users to Own Smartphones by 2016.”


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