By now, you’ve probably heard about the Delete Facebook movement. Stemming from the alleged misuse of data from over 50 million user accounts (update: 87 million user accounts) by a firm called Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 presidential election, Facebook users have been deleting accounts as a way of showing that they want to control their data.
Whether you’re planning to join the Delete Facebook movement or not, an interesting conversation is unfolding about the far-reaching effects of deleting an account.
One effect in particular has piqued our interest: How does deleting Facebook impact the secure logins on thousands of sites or apps that rely on the “Login with Facebook” button?
Facebook as Identity Manager
The idea behind Delete Facebook is simple. Users want to delete their accounts so Facebook can no longer have access to all the data they agree to share with the social media giant on its platform.
But Facebook doesn’t just live on the Facebook platform—Facebook lives on every single website that has a Like button or a Login with Facebook button. In fact, you’d probably be shocked to learn how many sites you have access to through your Facebook account via the Login with Facebook button. (If you’re curious, you can find out by going into your Facebook settings and hitting the ‘apps’ tab on the left side).
So, if you delete Facebook, what happens to those accounts? Is it worth it if it means you need to create new logins for all of those services?
CNN’s security reporter Selena Larson shared her thoughts in a short thread on Twitter recently:
I've been thinking a lot about giving up Facebook and what it would mean for the average user to delete their accounts. Some might lose the friends/connections, but the entire identity management part of FB is a big reason people stay.
— Selena (@selenalarson) March 7, 2018
If you're like a lot of people and use Facebook to login to other services, deleting Facebook means having to either edit or delete and recreate a bunch of other accounts which is annoying.
— Selena (@selenalarson) March 7, 2018
Impact of Deleting Facebook on Accounts Tied to Your Facebook Login
On Facebook, deleting your account is different from deactivating your account. If you deactivate your account, Facebook retains your data. Should you log in with Facebook on a different website or app to gain access to that account, your Facebook account will automatically be reactivated.
Should you truly delete Facebook, in the permanent sense, your account will no longer exist, and any accounts associated with the Login with Facebook button will no longer exist either. Facebook does mention that there is a delay in deletion “for a few days,” during which if you choose to log in with Facebook on a different website or app, your original deletion request is canceled.
If you no longer have access to any of the accounts associated with your Facebook profile, you have to, in Selena Larson’s words, “either edit[,] or delete and recreate a bunch of other accounts which is annoying.”
The idea of recreating 50+ accounts (or even 10 accounts) is daunting for many because of the tedium and frustration associated with signing up and logging into accounts.
If you decide to join the Delete Facebook movement, and you lose access to tens of different accounts, the well-known self-help site, Lifehacker, has identified a great new account-creation strategy: Using a password manager as the fastest and most secure way to recreate accounts across thousands of websites and apps without any frustration.
A password manager is a tool that securely stores account information (like usernames and strong passwords), other personal details, and payment information behind one master password. But it’s not just a vault. A password manager then automatically fills that information in relevant online fields across devices.
Think of it as a better alternative to Facebook’s identity management solution—one that won’t come back to bite you for deleting a problematic account.
It’s convenient to press a blue button and log into various sites and services with your Facebook credentials. But when you give other companies access to your Facebook data—which can be quite comprehensive—you’re surrendering control of that information to entities that probably don’t care very much about you or your privacy. Stop doing that. Use a handy password manager to create and keep track of your logins and passwords instead.
There are three main benefits to using a password manager in this case:
Signing up for accounts is a cinch. Just tap a signup field and your password manager autofills in the rest, including creating a strong, unique password for each account using a random password generator.
Auto-login is part of the magic of a password manager. Once you’re signed up for your new account, your password manager automatically and securely logs you in the next time you go to that site or app. This is similar to the Login with Facebook experience, but it retains the privacy of your data.
And this is the kicker—when you use a password manager, you can create strong, unique passwords for each account because you don’t need to remember any of them. This ensures account security. Not only does a password manager include a password generator that creates random passwords at signup, it remembers them for you and makes them available instantly across your devices, securely stored behind your master password.
Whether or not you choose to delete Facebook, it’s a good idea to stop using the platform as a de facto identity manager. You’re giving away a lot of your private data without even realizing it. Use a password manager, and wean yourself off that big blue button!