Facebook Finally Gets Serious About Privacy

Facebook is finally getting serious about privacy. At its F8 developer conference in San Francisco Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced two new updates to Facebook Login that center around user privacy.

You’ll now be able to use Facebook Login quasi-anonymously, meaning you can log into a mobile application using your Facebook account—but the application won’t know any personal information about you. 

“It’s an experience that’s synced without an app knowing who you are,” Zuckerberg said. “If you want, you can always sign in with your real identity once you’re comfortable sharing your information.”

Facebook has grappled with privacy issues in the past. And Zuckerberg has notoriously been chilly about the idea of anonymity online. The Facebook experience is, after all, all about your real identity. But with anonymous login, Facebook is embracing the concerns of users and finally offering a new option for people that aren’t comfortable sharing their true identity with applications that don’t need to know your real name, location, or Facebook Likes in order to operate. Instead of your name, apps get an anonymous identifier that Facebook generates. 

The new anonymous login option is entirely one-sided, however. Apps don’t know who you are, but Facebook still knows what apps you’re using.

“We know that so that we can make this cross-device experience work,” Eddie O’Neil, platform product manager at Facebook said in an interview. “We issue the same anonymous ID for you as you move from iPhone, to iPad to Web.”

For users that are privacy conscious but still want to use their real identity to log into third-party applications, Facebook rolled out editable permissions at F8 as well. Now, when you log into an application, you can choose which personal information to share line by line. 

“We know people are scared of pressing this blue [Facebook Login] button,” Zuckerberg said, admitting users are nervous about sharing all their personal information with third-party apps. “We don’t want anyone to be surprised how they’re sharing on Facebook.”

Some applications, like the ridesharing application Lyft, will likely require people to provide identifying personal information like their name and picture, but now you’ll be able to give apps only the information they require, and nothing else. 

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