One of the earliest providers of SSO technology was the non-profit foundation OpenID, developed in 2005 by LiveJournal creator Brad Fitzpatrick. OpenID provides users with a personalized URL that can be used to sign into websites without a password. OpenID partners create user URLs by default, so if you have an existing Google, Yahoo!, or WordPress account, you already have an OpenID.
Many retail and SaaS (software as a service) websites are now using Facebook and Twitter to gain access to their customers’ information. It definitely makes things easier for the user, but social networks have faced backlashes concerning what they do with user information, sparking controversies and lawsuits.
SSO is woven into every aspect of Google — within its own applications (Gmail, Calendar, Drive, YouTube) as well as with Google Apps for businesses and education. Google’s hold on the entire Internet and dizzying technological aptitude has made it extremely easy to follow users from site to site, tracking their moves.
The Big Brother We Love
Creating and remembering passwords is a modern-day inconvenience. According to Fox Business, one third of Internet users have more than 10 unique passwords to remember. Social sign-ins allow those people to sign into their accounts using their existing social networks, fighting off the password fatigue that often comes with creating and remembering multiple passwords.
Yet social networks are using social sign-in for more than just a streamlined process. Last fall, Facebook made headlines when it partnered with a third-party data mining company called Datalogix. It utilized features like social sign-in to track user purchases in an attempt to measure and communicate the effectiveness of its advertisers’ campaigns.
Facebook wasn’t trying to hide its activities, but some claimed it was still in breach of a previous settlement that required Facebook to be “abundantly clear of its intention” to share user information. Facebook users are responsible to themselves to know what they’re signing up for when they join the free service, however.
Should We Be Worried?
Claire BeDell: Claire works in marketing in Chicago and specializes in social media and content creation. She is also an avid writer and ruminator. You can reach her on Twitter at @clairebedell.