The decline of the social media login button
Logging into websites or apps via your favorite social media channel may soon be a thing of the past. The culprit? Trust and privacy issues — particularly when it comes to Facebook.
Big brands like Twitch, Dell, Patagonia, Match, and Nike have recently removed the capability to sign onto their websites via Facebook. According to CNN, this removal is a sign of Facebook’s diminishing influence in recent times, from reputational damage due to scandals like Cambridge Analytica, deteriorating revenue, widespread misinformation, and a general decline in popularity because of competition from other platforms, particularly TikTok.
And the stats don’t lie. Way back in 2014, Facebook was the clear winner in the social login game, accounting for more than 50%. In 2022, Facebook logins have dropped and are basically on par with Google in most geographic locations. According to the Consumer Digital Identity Trend Report 2022 from LoginRadius, In North America, Facebook is preferred by 38.69% of users for social logins, while Google is preferred by 38.94%. The report hypothesizes that Facebook logins will continue to drop due to reputational issues.
While it’s the Facebook button that big brands have specifically removed from their login options lately, users have been using social media login buttons less for a while now, with Dell reporting that the number has been reducing over time.
The former appeal of social media logins
In the past, social media logins were seen as advantageous to both users and social media companies. For users, ease of use was the main appeal. Instead of having to create a new username and login for each new site you want to use, social media login buttons allow users to log in with their social media credentials quickly and easily.
For social media companies, social media login buttons present the opportunity for free data. They reveal where users spend their time when they are on different sites, as well as their purchases. This data can also be shared with advertisers who can use it for better targeting. For small businesses, the social login provides a convenient way to enable logins for customers.
Why the decline?
Dell’s chief digital and information officer Jen Felch told CNN that the shift away from social logins is likely due to concerns over privacy, security, and data-sharing, and that people are “making a decision to isolate that social media account versus having other connections to it.”
With growing awareness of dubious advertising practices, issues of consent, and how tech companies share data, it’s unsurprising that users appear to be eschewing convenience for caution. According to Norton, using a social login allows social media companies to share sensitive data about you, like your preferences, demographic data, employment status, friends, and more, with the site you’re signing into. That is a lot of information to disclose for the sake of convenience.
Then there’s the security element. For years, experts have cautioned against using social logins as there is a risk of compromising multiple accounts. According to SCMagazine, a social media login could become a single point of failure if the credentials are somehow compromised, with malicious actors potentially gaining access to every site you log in to with that ID. Furthermore, with the depressingly high number of people who use and reuse weak passwords, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that a bad actor could easily crack your social media password and then access all of the sites you use social logins on. Then there’s the fact that social media data breaches are worryingly common. The full timelines of Facebook and Twitter data breaches over the years featured on Firewall Times are pretty eye-opening.
Another reason for the decline is login confusion. Marketing tech firm Buffer told CNN that before they got rid of social media logins, people often forgot which site they used to log in to their platform, inadvertently creating multiple accounts.
Even Meta will stop using Facebook logins
If you weren’t already wary of Facebook logins, perhaps the fact that even its parent company doesn’t want to use them will change your mind. TechCrunch reports that Meta formerly used Facebook logins as its primary ID system, which resulted in widespread concern and complaints from users over privacy. Moving forward, new Meta accounts will be used to sign into the company’s virtual reality system, and eventually Instagram and Facebook too. However, you can still create a Meta account using your Facebook or Instagram account if you want.
Individual accounts are always best
Even though the perceived convenience of social logins might be tempting when you need to sign up for a site or app, the safest option for data privacy and security will always be creating a new account.