Skip to main content

Yesterday, CBC published an article describing a married woman’s embarrassment after she discovered a dating site had used her Facebook photo and postal code to create an online profile. And she isn’t the only one to accuse the site of creating profiles for users who didn’t sign up.

It’s most likely that the site received her personal information through ‘open authentication protocol,’ or OAuth, a set of rules used by Facebook, Twitter and Google that allows third-party sites access to users’ names, birth dates, and locations.

OAuth lets you sign-in on sites like Groupon and Pinterest using your Facebook credentials, so that you can avoid creating new accounts with different passwords. But, by “signing up” with Facebook, you’re usually providing more personal information than just your name and email address to websites.

Privacy continues to be a concern in the digital age, but in most cases users are agreeing to give out personal information without really realizing it. I mean, how many people are actually reading through every service agreement they accept?

OAuth makes it easy to share personal information with just the click of a button, but there are ways you can protect yourself online and avoid succumbing to automation brain.

Use the “Sign up with…” button cautiously. If you are going to sign up for a new account by logging in with Facebook, make sure it’s on a credible and trustworthy site.

Know what you’re signing up for. It’s easy to click “accept” without reading the fine print. It should be clear what service or information you’re signing up to receive. If it isn’t, don’t bother.  

Limit your use of third-party apps. Facebook games and apps also receive your personal information. If you want to limit the amount of information being shared it might be time to start playing Tetris on your Gameboy again.