Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tech Column: No, No, Not a Facebook Login

by Bill Adler

My doctor's gone high tech in some cool ways, and in one very not cool way. First the cool: I check in at a kiosk at the doctor's office, where I can pay my co-payment before I see the doctor. It's very efficient, very streamlined. Second, the not so cool: The login method that they use to access your health records.

When I went to create a logon I was offered a choice of selecting one of several different services to use for my logon: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft...or Facebook.

Hmm. Facebook as the method I used to logon to a database that contains personal medical records? I suddenly had visions of my weight gain numbers appearing on my news stream: "Bill's gained 12 pounds since his last checkup. Like?"

I know that wouldn't happen, but no matter how much logic I applied to the situation, I couldn't get over the idea that mixing Facebook and my medical records --even if Facebook won't have access to them-- in any way was a good idea. After all, Facebook and privacy are concepts that go as well together as BYOB to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Unfortunately, my doctor didn't offer creating an independent logon as an option. It was one of the gang of four or nothing. I thought about it. There's Google, which already knows everything about me. Yahoo, which recently recycled people's email addresses if they hadn't been used in a year. Microsoft was an option, but, you know, Windows viruses, crashes. Hmm. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe...

Here's the thing about using a third party service for your logon. Something to keep in mind because you might have no choice, as I did, or you might think it's convenient to do that. Your logon is dependent on your continued use of that service. Chances are that Facebook and Google will be around for a very long time, but what if your account is canceled? A service like Facebook has an absolute right to terminate your cyberlife for whatever reason it wants. It's happened, and people who've been booted off one service or another can no longer access whatever it is that they've logged into.

Just some food for thought as our lives become simultaneously more convenient and complicated.


Bill Adler is a writer. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft, "Outwitting Squirrels," http://amzn.to/VXuLBh, and a mess of other books. He tweets at @billadler. His tech column is published on Tuesdays.

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