Is The Google+ “Spam-Free” Sign-In Really That Different From Facebook?

feature-sign-inGoogle is promising that its new Google+ Sign-In is a way to avoid all that “social spam” that unnamed other services (cough, Facebook) “spray” into your social timeline. Hey, I know Facebook can get aggressive. But how about a reality check on Google’s supposedly altruistic move?

Google Account Sign-In Had No Social Worries

For one, I had a perfectly good way of logging in to things via Google without worrying somehow, some application or website was going to create the social spam that Google’s worried about in its blog post today. It was called a Google Account. Not a Google+ Account. A Google Account, which wasn’t necessarily linked with my Google+ account.

Why, I could (and still can) use my Google Account to login right here on Marketing Land in order to comment. In doing so, I don’t have to worry about whether my comment is going to be shared on Google+ or whether a zillion other things are going to happen beyond my comment. That’s because my Google Account had nothing to do with Google’s social network, Google+.

So today, I’m supposed to feel like Google is finally offering me a solution to whatever social spam problem I was worried about? I think not. By pushing Google+ Accounts for sign-in, I now have to review things I never was concerned about when using my Google Account.

What Google+ Sign-In Gets & Gives

Consider what happens when I go over to OpenTable, one of the launch partners for the new Google+ Account sign-in:

Request for Permission-5

Wow. When I sign-in with a regular Google Account, I don’t have to review any of this stuff (I sure don’t remember having to do such a thing), because the application or website typically isn’t getting anything. But now, I have to understand that:

  • The site or app will know my name, my “basic info” and a list of people I know on Google+
  • It’ll get “basic info” about my account
  • It’ll get my email address
  • It may share my activity on Google+ by default to any of my friends

If I want to understand more about this, I get to go on a parade through the more information areas. What’s my basic info? First, the overview:

Request for Permission

OK, OpenTable apparently needs my full name, my profile picture, my Google+ ID, my age range and my language to participate in the site. Oh, and a list of my friends. Oh, and whatever is “other publicly available information in my Google+ profile.” Well, it’s public, I guess.

Moving on, the next info window adds that OpenTable will get my gender and my birthdate, as well as my country and my timezone. A third info box reinforces that it’s getting my email address. Finally, I’m told this about what Google is going to get from OpenTable about me:

Request for Permission-7

Google’s going to see what I do at OpenTable (everything? just some type of specific actions?), and then it’s going to share or make use of that information by default with all my friends, not just within Google+ but also when my friends do searches at Google, when they get ads served by Google or on other Google services that aren’t defined.

Wow, I’m just really thankful at this point I had Google looking out for me here, offering the Google+ Sign-In as an alternative to the Google Account Sign-In, which required nothing of this reading, dissecting, worrying or guesswork.

What Facebook Sign-In Gets & Gives

Of course, what the Google+ Sign-In is really positioned against is Facebook. Google never names Facebook in its post, but that’s the obvious target. And Facebook is still a sign-in partner for OpenTable. What happens if I use that? Surely it must open me up to something terrible, given Google’s attack post today. Let’s see:

fb opentable

So, if I use Facebook to sign-in, OpenTable will get:

  • My “basic info”
  • My email address
  • My profile info, including a description about me, my birthday and things I like
  • My status updates
  • My friends’ birthday

It might also share things to my Facebook timeline that can be seen only by my friends, by default.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like what the Google+ Sign-In is going to do. But, let’s drill into each area, because Facebook — like Google+ — has additional information you can use to explore.

My basic info turns out to include my name, profile picture, gender, Facebook networks I belong to, my Facebook user ID, a list of my friends and anything else I’ve made public:

Google Chrome

What Google & Facebook Do The Same

Let’s see if we can compare the two now. Here’s what each both Google and Facebook are getting or doing:

  • My name
  • My email address
  • My gender
  • My birthday
  • My profile picture
  • My user ID
  • Anything public in my profile
  • List of my friends
  • Share activity to my friends in my timeline

Anyone really feel like OpenTable needs your birthday to let you use its app or website? Like your age (other than knowing your above 18) is a crucial requirement for an app? But that’s what it’s getting, and now with the help of Google, right alongside Facebook.

As for social “spam,” both Google and Facebook are potentially set to “spray” in exactly the same way.

What’s Unique To Facebook

These are thing that are unique to Facebook:

  • My Facebook networks
  • Friends’ Birthdays
  • Status Updates
  • My Likes

I can’t say that I’m thrilled that Facebook feels like it needs to hand out my status updates, potentially, to OpenTable — as well as my friends’ birthday and things I like.

What Unique To Google

Then again, Google has some worrisome unique things:

  • My language
  • My country
  • My timezone
  • Share activity in search
  • Share activity in ads
  • Share activity in other Google services

Interesting. Google’s made a big deal that it won’t spray spam into Google+, which it has been careful to position, over time, as some type of ad-free refuge compared to Facebook. That’s easy for Google, since Facebook has to show ads in its social area, since that’s Facebook’s product. Facebook doesn’t have a search engine to underwrite a “pure” social area.

But despite this, Google is possibly spraying within Google+ and beyond that, spraying into its two key revenue areas, search and ads (and by ads, that means ads beyond search). It also reserves the right to spray in other ways.

Google” White Knight Or Facebook Wanna-Be?

Fair enough, Facebook has definitely had issues where it has allowed some apps to post too much into activity streams. No one wants a repeat of the  horror show that was Spotify. And fair enough, with different partners, Facebook (or the partner) might be half different (as might be Google).

But, bottom line? While Google’s trying to position itself has some type of white knight to the Facebook oppressed, today’s move seems much more about being in the type of position that Facebook is in, knowing even more about what we do and use online and on our devices.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Facebook: Buttons & Plugins | Google: Google+ | Top News


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Abraham Williams

    One difference is Google+ apps can not automatically share to your stream. They have to use the G+ SDK to open a share dialog. Your app activity can show up to the people in circles allowed to see it in other ways (e.g. search) but it shouldn’t show up in the stream.

  • Nikhilesh Jasuja

    Great comparison!

    One advantage of using G+ auth could be using rel=author pointing to G+ profile for content created by your users.

  • Danny Sullivan

    If they absolutely cannot do that, that doesn’t mean that Facebook apps just spew everything, which is what the post describes. I have nearly 70 Facebook apps, and I can tell you that my stream is not flooded with activity from them.

    Also, the apps certainly may share what you do or like in Google search data or ad data in a “frictionless” way, as least based on the information that Google itself provides.

    Again, the bottom line is that with Google Account sign-ins, we didn’t have to worry about this stuff that supposedly was only a Facebook problem. But with Google pushing Google+ sign-ins (and almost certainly likely to make Google Account sign-ins go away), it’s actually making our activity less private and more subject to review than before.

    And that is pretty much the opposite of the message it tried to present today.

  • Vandré Brunazo

    > I can tell you that my stream is not flooded with activity from them.

    That’s because of EdgeRank. Facebook hides most activity in your stream from view, using their own secret sauce algorithm. Apps have a specially very low weight and will rarely show in your stream, even if you want them to. This way then can incentive brands to pay for visibility. On G+, absolutely everything you post is shown, just like twitter.

  • Vandré Brunazo

    One huge advantage of G+ sign in. As an Android app developer, this allows my users to install my app from my website directly to their phone, without visiting the play store. Because I’m not sending them to the play store, I can have an 100% accurate conversion rate, so I can measure ad campaigns. You can know exactly how many of the people who clicked your ads are actually installing your apps. (before you could only know how many of them you sent to the play store website, but not how many of those installed it).

    This is currently impossible on any other platform. And it’s a huge benefit for performance metrics.

  • Danny Sullivan

    It’s both EdgeRank and also because not every app out there is constantly sharing. But it goes to the bigger point, the idea that Facebook is just full of “app spam.”

  • Michael Martinez

    Given all the spam accounts that have been registered on Facebook, using that service to filter out spam registrations is a waste of time. I don’t know how many spam Google+ accounts have been created although I presume fewer since most people still believe Google+ has little to no activity. But given how easy it is to create multiple Google logins (which, presumably, automatically create Google+ accounts) I have to guess there must already be millions of spammy Google+ accounts just waiting to be abused.

  • Vandré Brunazo

    The point is that it is full of app spam. You don’t see it because both good app posts and app spam are hidden together. Which makes the good posts that you actually wanna show, harder to spot. Which is the whole point of why spam is bad in the first place. The app spam is not harmlessly going away with EdgeRank, it’s hidding your good posts in the noise.

    On Facebook, your friends don’t get to see everything you wanna tell them, because of social spam. On google they do. That’s a very good point.

  • tqwhite

    What I can’t imagine is using either of those. What could possibly justify giving anyone such access to any part of your life?

    I am (barely) willing to use Disqus to sign in for comments and am becoming sceptical of that. I would categorically refuse to use anything that insists on FB or G+.

  • Alex Ander

    There are a few differences:
    - Confirmations for every share decreases the volume at which spam is created

    - You have to actually circle a spambot to see their posts as there isn’t a separate comments feed like the Facebook plugin

    - If the spambots manage to get into Communities or populate (the admittedly already imperfect) tag streams, the Google+ spam filter is almost too strong for its own good

    Google+ sign-in ensures that 3rd-party apps and websites, while still getting access to your “basic info”, can only see the people you want it to see – and most importantly, the system works both ways.

    The real difference here is that the Google algorithms can process your “activity” – which is all of the interactions between Google+ and that particular app. If you really don’t want AdMob to process what you share, though, you’d best not be using Google+ at all.

  • Marc Razia

    It won’t be long I am sure. But why should it be? If anything, having all the various Google services under a single login makes things much more efficient. Imagine if you had separate logins for FB photos, FB games, FB messaging, etc. What a nightmare.

  • Marc Razia

    If you own a smartphone and download any apps, you are already providing that info each time.

  • tqwhite

    Though I am annoyed that our government refuses to restrict companies’ use of our data, I understand that anyone I give info to is a leak.

    What I rarely do is allow apps to access systems outside their own aegis. EG, I do not allow the NY Times app to talk to Facebook. What I *never* do is use Facebook as an authentication system.

    In fact, I go one step further. I access my Facebook account on a separate web browser to sequester cookies. To the best of my ability, I keep my life separate from Facebook. It is insidious.

    Google is a bad problem. Adsense makes it possible to track one far and wide. Consequently, I sequester my Google login in a separate browser.

    Unfortunately, we know that a determined researcher can identify you by your search history. But by isolating my login, they have to take special steps to organize a picture of my life.

  • Alex Ander

    You have to understand that the real purpose of Google+ is not to be a Facebook competitor (though now that the two have become more competitive, it may well turn out that way). In unifying their products through Plus (especially with features like 2-step authorization, profile verification, and PageRank boosts) Google is trying to put you in control of that footprint.

    While right now it’s still possible and pretty feasible to all but eliminate your online identity, as the world inevitably becomes more integrated with the web it’ll be nice to have one account that is verifiable, secure, and customizable.

  • Geoff S.

    All my Google services are under a single login now, and i don’t have problems. If i want to share something on Google plus i know how, i don’t need an app to do it for me.

  • Ryan Ng

    What’s Disqus?

  • tqwhite

    Disqus is the utility this site (and us right now) are using to enter and display these comments.

    Their business model is based on collecting information correlating a cookie they set when you log in for this comment with all of the websites you visit that also use this tool. It’s a huge privacy invasion but they don’t have as much of my personal and relationship information as Facebook and Google Plus.

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