social loginsIf you use the Internet these days (and if you’re reading this, that’s a no-brainer), you have probably been invited to connect with at least one website using a social media login. These connections are often done through Google+, Twitter or Facebook, but can also be used with Instagram. Although most people connect without thinking twice about doing so, it’s important to understand what it means for your safety online so you can make an informed decision. Like with most other things on the Internet, understanding what you’re doing goes a long way toward keeping yourself protected from identity theft and other dangers.

What are social logins?

A social login lets you sign into a third-party website using an existing social media account, using a security measure known as OAuth. Because you sign in using your social media account, the third-party website does not have to store and secure a username and password for you. In the age of data breaches, this can be great for you and these websites, because it means if the website is compromised, your social media account won’t be. Social logins allows websites to have access to your account, but not authorization, meaning they don’t have your password — only access to specific data that you allow. These allowances are called permissions, and they are the most important factor to any social login you choose to enable.

Are these connections safe?

While some websites merely want to use your social login for the basic ability to use your display name and picture, others will want more — everything from the ability to post to your social media account on your behalf to access to your phone’s location, events or other personal information. This can be a big deal for those who like to keep their social media accounts as private as possible. Therefore, it’s essential that you read the list of permissions you are granting to a website or app any time you connect with a social login to be sure you know what you’re getting into. That said, these connections are actually far more secure than logging into a website with your username and password. Furthermore, what people often don’t realize is that you can edit — or revoke altogether — these permissions at any time you wish.

How can I view and edit my permissions?

Although it’s not technically unsafe to connect your social media accounts to other sites or apps, it’s good to know what you are connected to and how much information is being shared. You might be surprised how quickly these connections can add up, and with each connection you are granting the site permission to access your information. Some apps only have permission to use your display name and photo, but others might have permission to view your contact information and even post to your social media account on your behalf. The good news is, it’s easy to take back control and revoke access to any websites or apps you don’t want to have it. Here are some instructions to view and edit social login permissions on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Keep in mind, you will probably need to do this from a computer browser, rather than the social network’s mobile app, for most of these networks. Of the four highlighted below, only Facebook allowed us to view and edit permissions from its app.

Google+

Social Logins - Google Plus

To view permissions for Google+, navigate to any Google page and click on your circular avatar at the top-right of the screen. Select “Account” from the menu that pops up and then scroll down on the Account page until you reach a section called “Connected Apps and Services.” From there, you can click on “Account Permissions — View All.” This page shows you every app connected to your Google account, along with details on what types of permissions it currently has. You can read more about what different permissions, such as “full account access,” mean and click a button to revoke access if you wish. It also tells you when you made the authorization in the first place.

Facebook

Social Logins - Facebook

Top of the pack when it comes to social logins, Facebook’s permissions are highly detailed and could be potentially frustrating to navigate for the average user. To access your permissions, click on the arrow symbol at the upper right of your Facebook account and select “Settings” from the drop-down menu. On that page, select “Apps” from the menu on the left-hand side of the screen. This will take you to your permissions page, where you can edit and view the permissions for specific apps, as well as edit your overall settings for connecting via social logins. Facebook allows “anonymous” connections as well as public, so be sure to view both so you know every app you’re connected with.

A good rule of thumb is to disconnect from any app you can’t recognize or don’t use frequently. Many third-party apps, like the quizzes we see people share so often, will require you to connect via social login before you can use them. These might be fun in the moment, but do you really need a bunch of random apps logged in with your Facebook account? It’s a good idea to revisit this page every few months to keep tabs on what you’re connected to — and what information they’re accessing.

Twitter

Social Logins - Twitter

Similar to Google+, Twitter’s app permissions page is much simpler than Facebook’s. To find it, click on your Twitter avatar in the upper-right corner of the website and select “Settings” from the drop-down menu. On that page, select “Apps” from the left-hand navigation menu. This will show you a list of all apps or websites connected to your Twitter account, along with information about when the connection was made and what type of access it has. If your Twitter and Facebook accounts are connected, you can view and change specific settings for the interactions of those accounts, but for other apps your only choice is to revoke access or leave the permission in place.

Instagram

Social Logins - Instagram

Perhaps the simplest of them all, photo sharing social network Instagram’s app settings can be accessed by clicking on your picture and username in the top-right corner of the screen and selecting “Edit Profile.” On that page, click “Manage Applications” in the left menu. Your only options are to revoke an app’s permissions, and unlike the other social media sites, you can’t see as much detail about the social login connection in place.

Other social media sites

Many more social media sites allow social logins. The best way to figure out what your profile is connected to is to log into your account and visit the settings page. Look for anything that mentions applications or connected websites and make sure you are okay with the connections currently made and what permissions they allow. It’s your social media profile, after all, so you should be aware of what information is shared — and with whom.

Want more help managing your social media privacy settings? Some Internet security programs now offer social media managers that help you keep track of things, including app permissions. It’s important to protect your privacy online, both to keep your identity safe as well as to safeguard your reputation offline.