Social Login: History
Please note this is an old version of this entry, which may differ significantly from the current revision.

Social login is a form of single sign-on using existing information from a social networking service such as Facebook, Twitter or Google, to sign into a third party website instead of creating a new login account specifically for that website. It is designed to simplify logins for end users as well as provide more and more reliable demographic information to web developers.

  • single sign-on
  • social networking
  • twitter

1. How Social Login Works

Social login links accounts from one or more social networking services to a website, typically using either a plug-in or a widget.[1] By selecting the desired social networking service, the user simply uses his or her login for that service to sign on to the website. This, in turn, negates the need for the end user to remember login information for multiple electronic commerce and other websites while providing site owners with uniform demographic information as provided by the social networking service. Many sites which offer social login also offer more traditional online registration for those who either desire it or who do not have an account with a compatible social networking service (and therefore would be precluded from creating an account with the website).

2. Application

Social login can be implemented strictly as an authentication system using standards such as OpenID or SAML. For consumer websites that offer social functionality to users, social login is often implemented using the OAuth standard. OAuth is a secure authorization protocol which is commonly used in conjunction with authentication to grant 3rd party applications a "session token" allowing them to make API calls to providers on the user's behalf. Sites using the social login in this manner typically offer social features such as commenting, sharing, reactions and gamification.

While social login can be extended to corporate websites,[2] the majority of social networks and consumer-based identity providers allow self-asserted identities. For this reason, social login is generally not used for strict, highly secure applications such as those in banking or health.

3. Advantages of Social Login

Studies have shown that website registration forms are inefficient as many people provide false data, forget their login information for the site or simply decline to register in the first place. A study conducted in 2011 by Janrain and Blue Research found that 77 percent of consumers favored social login as a means of authentication over more traditional online registration methods.[3] Additional benefits:

  • Targeted Content - Web sites can obtain a profile and social graph data in order to target personalized content to the user. This includes information such as name, email, hometown, interests, activities, and friends. However, this can create issues for privacy, and result in a narrowing of the variety of views and options available on the internet.
  • Multiple Identities - Users can log into websites with multiple social identities allowing them to better control their online identity.[4]
  • Registration Data - Many websites use the profile data returned from social login instead of having users manually enter their PII (Personally Identifiable Information) into web forms. This can potentially speed up the registration or sign-up process.
  • Pre-validated Email - Identity providers who support email such as Google and Yahoo! can return the user's email address to the 3rd party website preventing the user from supplying a fabricated email address during the registration process.
  • Account linking - Because social login can be used for authentication, many websites allow legacy users to link pre-existing site account with their social login account without forcing re-registration.

4. Disadvantages of Social Login

Utilizing social login through platforms such as Facebook may unintentionally render third-party websites useless within certain libraries, schools, or workplaces which block social networking services for productivity reasons. It can also cause difficulties in countries with active censorship regimes, such as China and its "Golden Shield Project," where the third party website may not be actively censored, but is effectively blocked if a user's social login is blocked.[5]

There are several other risks that come with using social login tools. These logins are also a new frontier for fraud and account abuse as attackers use sophisticated means to hack these authentication mechanisms.[6] This can result in an unwanted increase in fraudulent account creations, or worse; attackers successfully stealing social media account credentials from legitimate users. One such way that social media accounts are exploited is when users are enticed to download malicious browser extensions that request read and write permissions on all websites. These users are not aware that later on, typically a week or so after being installed, the extensions will then download some background Javascript malware from its command and control site to run on the user's browser. From then on, these malware infected browsers can effectively be controlled remotely. These extensions will then wait until the user logs into a social media or another online account, and using those tokens or credentials will sign up for other online accounts without the rightful user's express permission.

5. Aggregating Social Login

Social login applications compatible with many social networking services are available to web developers using blogging platforms such as WordPress. Companies such as Gigya, Janrain,,, and LoginRadius also provide single solution social login services for web developers. These companies can provide social login access to 20 or more social network sites.[7]

6. Security

In March 2012, a research paper[8] reported an extensive study on the security of social login mechanisms. The authors found 8 serious logic flaws in high-profile ID providers and relying party websites, such as OpenID (including Google ID and PayPal Access), Facebook, Janrain, Freelancer, FarmVille,, etc. Because the researchers informed ID providers and the third party websites that relied on the service prior to public announcement of the discovery of the flaws, the vulnerabilities were corrected, and there have been no security breaches reported.[9] This research concludes that the overall security quality of SSO deployments seems worrisome.

Moreover, social logins are often implemented in an insecure way. Users, in this case, have to trust every application which implemented this feature to handle their identifier confidentially. [10]

Furthermore, by placing reliance on an account which is operable on many websites, social login creates a single point of failure, thus considerably augmenting the damage that would be caused were the account to be hacked.

7. List of Notable Providers

Here is a list of services (commonly social networks) that provide social login features which they encourage other websites to use.

  • Alipay
  • AOL
  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • KakaoTalk
  • Line
  • LinkedIn
  • PayPal
  • QQ
  • Sina Weibo
  • Taobao
  • Vkontakte (ВКонтакте)
  • Twitter
  • WeChat
  • Yahoo!

The content is sourced from:


  1. Ngemera, Eusebius (2017-01-31). "Social Logins—what info you give away!" (in en). 
  2. "Integrate Social Networks with your Corporate Website with Social Sign On" - Altimeter Group, September 27, 2010
  3. Social Media Marketing: Social login or traditional website registration? MarketingSherpa, January 12, 2012
  4. "The Social Web's Big New Theme for 2011: Multiple Identities for Everyone" - AllThingsD, January 1, 2011
  5. Laurenson, Lydia (3 May 2014). "The Censorship Effect". TechCrunch. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  6. Safruti, Ido (18 October 2017). "Simple Social Login for Users and Attackers". infosecurity. Retrieved 14 November 2017. 
  7. List of Social Login Providers, Janrain
  8. "Signing Me onto Your Accounts through Facebook and Google: a Traffic-Guided Security Study of Commercially Deployed Single-Sign-On Web Services". 
  9. "OpenID: Vulnerability report, Data confusion" - OpenID Foundation, March 14, 2012
  10. "Social Login Setups – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" - CloudRail, August 2, 2016
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