Social sign-ins at third-party sites begin to get thumbs down


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It's common for websites requiring registration to offer a social-sign-in option. That allows the consumer to use their credentials from a social networking site, such as Facebook or Twitter, at the new site, thus avoiding the need for creating yet another username and password to remember.

On some sites, though, social-sign-in isn't an option but a requirement—a requirement that some of those sites have started reconsidering.

Pinterest, Spotify, Pulse, and have already ditched social-sign-in exclusivity, according to Josh Constine, writing for TechCrunch, and social browser maker Rockmelt followed suit last Friday.

When Rockmelt released the version of its browser for the iPad in October, it required registration to Facebook or Twitter to use it. That's no longer the case.

"As an alternative to logging in with Facebook or Twitter, you can now login via email," Rockmelt wrote at its company blog.

Less eager to share

Rockmelt's desertion of social-sign-in exclusivity appears to be prompted by a reluctance of users to open up their social networking accounts to the company. According to TechCrunch, 50 percent of Rockmelt users were accessing the service without a social login. In other words, they were prepared to sacrifice the personalization benefits offered by Rockmelt for protection of their social networking credentials.

Rockmelt's login based on an existing social network account.

What Rockmelt is discovering is that consumers are becoming more wary of giving away their social networking credentials to any site that asks for them. A site needs to build trust with a new user before that user opens up a social networking account to it, Rockmelt's co-founder and CEO Eric Vishria told TechCrunch. "People want a little dating before marriage," he said.

One reason companies try to get new followers to use their social credentials for registering with a site is it makes logins easier to manage—they can use someone else's login systems without having to build their own—and it makes it easier to tailor services for a user and make the site  "stickier" for that user faster.

From a security point of view, however, the practice is worrisome. If you use the same credentials to log into Facebook that you use to log into other products, services and websites, then you only have one set of keys, explained Sophos Senior Technology Consultant Graham Cluley.

"Lose control of those keys, and you have a much bigger problem than just losing control of your Facebook account," he said in an email interview. "If I managed to phish your Facebook username and password, I could then use those to log in elsewhere on the net."

Cluley recommended consumers use  hard-to-crack passwords for different services and manage those passwords with tools like 1Password, KeePass, and LastPass.

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