Facebook to allow anonymous log-ins on outside apps

April 30, 2014

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, Facebook)

Facebook has spent a decade trying to get people to share who they are online. But now it's trying something different -- letting users step out of the spotlight, on their own terms.

At the company's f8 developers conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that when the social network's 1.3 billion users log into other applications with their Facebook accounts they will now be able to limit how much of their personal information goes to those outside apps.

Under the new policy, when users connect a new site or service to their Facebook accounts, they'll see a login page that allows them to select from a number of sharing options. Though users will still be required to share basic information, such as name and gender, they can opt out of sharing other data, such as their birthdays or interests they've listed on Facebook. Users will also have more control over who sees the posts that the apps publish automatically to their profiles.

Facebook said it is also testing a feature that will eventually let users log in to other sites and services anonymously. In those cases, Facebook will still have access to the data from the users' accounts, but other companies will not, unless users explicitly give them more access, the company said.

The move toward more user control shows that while Facebook is eager to monetize user data -- it did, after all, announce a new mobile advertising platform -- the company is also keenly aware that it won't get that valuable data unless it builds trust from its users. The social network has some history to overcome on the trust front. In 2012, Facebook settled with the Federal Trade Commission over accusations that the company shared more user information with outside organizations than its privacy policies had allowed. In the past few months, Facebook has taken steps to simplify and clarify its privacy settings for users and has made  some of the site's features, such as a real-time friend tracking tool, optional.

Zuckerberg made clear in his keynote remarks that Facebook is looking to expand beyond its own walls to become a platform for in-house and outside apps, for other services, and for smart developers who can help build out the company's reach across the Web.

"Today is all about listening to you and hearing the things that you want from our platform," Zuckerberg said.  To that end, he also announced that Facebook will officially begin holding the f8 conference -- which has been on hiatus for three years -- annually.

Zuckerberg, who noted that he is soon turning 30, said Facebook is also maturing. The social network, he said, needs to spend the next 10 years focusing on user wants and needs, rather than on innovation for its own sake.

"My goal for our culture over the next 10 years is to build a culture of loving the people that we serve that is as strong ... as the culture of hacking that we have at Facebook," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing what we all build together."

 

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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