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Facebook to let its users limit login information

Regis Duvignau/Reuters/File 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — Trying to become even bigger, Facebook will allow users to reveal a little less.

The company said Wednesday that its 1.3 billion users would soon be able to limit the information they reveal to other websites or mobile applications when they log in through their Facebook identities.

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The move responds to longtime complaints from many users who object to requests for personal data simply to check out a new site or app when using the Facebook sign-in.

Although an app or site — like Spotify or Flipboard — will be able to ask for whatever information it likes, a user logging in through Facebook will be able to limit what is revealed to the owner of the app to just an e-mail address and public profile information like name and gender.

The app can ask for more information later, but the user will be able to decide whether to share more. The company is also testing a feature that will allow people to choose to log in to other sites or apps through a button marked “Log in anonymously.” The users would not be anonymous to Facebook, but no personal information would be revealed to the outside service. “We need to do everything we can to put people first and give people the tools they need to sign in and trust your apps,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s cofounder and chief executive, said during a speech to software developers in San Francisco.

While Facebook routinely scans its users’ posts, “likes,” and biographical data to target advertising, it has strong business motivations for giving people more control over how their data is shared, especially outside the service.

Zuckerberg’s long-term goal is to make Facebook a platform on which many other apps run, with Facebook accounts used as a universal identity card to log in everywhere.

Widespread use of Facebook IDs would increase the company’s influence in the technology world, keep users attached to the service, and give it valuable data to help sell ads.

To persuade outside developers to offer Facebook logins on their sites and mobile apps, Facebook has agreed in the past to share a lot of information about its users, from birth dates and likes to lists of their friends and even photos.

That has led to abuses, but the policy has also helped Facebook corral about half the market for social logins, although Google is a fast-rising challenger and other services like LinkedIn and Twitter are popular logins for certain applications.

Facebook shares closed at $59.78 on the Nasdaq, up $1.63.

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