Consumers have taken to logging onto their websites using their Facebook or Twitter accounts in droves. But in Washington, D.C., the increasingly popular practice, which allows a website or mobile app to get instant access to a consumer's account information from those social platforms, has raised privacy concerns.
To get ahead of policymakers and regulators, Gigya, a company that manages social logins and other interactive solutions for websites, launched Thursday a social privacy certification and seal that reassures consumers their data will not be abused or compromised.
Even though more than half of consumers have logged into an application or website using a social login, among those that don't 40 percent answered it was because they didn't know what would happen to their personal information, according to SurveyMonkey study of 2,600 consumers commissioned by Gigya. Nearly half of consumers said they would be more comfortable with social logins if there was a short, clear message about what information the website was collecting.
Gigya's solution was to develop a social privacy verification program. Following an audit by Gigya, the sites would then display a seal to consumers on login that lets them know the website will not sell user social data, post data on the user's behalf without permission, won't send messages to friends without permission and will not send unsolicited emails.
"Users want transparency around how their information is being collected and used," Patrick Salyer, Gigya's CEO said. "This is a big step forward."
Initial clients set to implement Gigya's SocialPrivacy Certification program include Martha Stewart Omnimedia, Finish Line (run.com), The Globe and Mail, and Lush Cosmetics.
Reassuring consumers social logins are safe and secure was one reason Gigya launched its SocialPrivacy Certification that delivers a privacy seal when consumers login. But convincing the government from stepping in is another matter.
The company collaborated on the requirements for the privacy certification with the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington-based think tank active in consumer privacy issues. It also brought on a chief privacy officer and formed a privacy and safety advisory board to advise clients on best practices.
If widely adopted, Gigya's privacy certification program could help satisfy lawmakers who are worried that consumers using social logins are giving websites a free and instant pass to rich demographic and psychographic data from Facebook or other social platforms.
"When a website makes a public representation, it's a binding agreement. It's bold, but it's one most sites are ready to make. If violated, the websites would be open to enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission," said Jules Polonetsky, co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, who will also sit on Gigya's privacy advisory board.