It’s important to us that the more than 2 billion people using our services each month can easily register for and log into their accounts — and regain access if they forget their login. For people who are accessing the internet for the very first time — particularly in emerging markets — this can be complicated. For example, swapping SIM cards (used to identify the owner of the mobile number and communicate to the mobile network) can make it difficult to recall which SIM is the primary one for the phone. Likewise, having local shopkeepers set up apps and social media accounts may mean someone else helped set up the password, making it more difficult to remember.
As we looked at how to make this easier for people, we realized that we could simplify this process with features like allowing people to save their login information on their devices or enabling their apps to interact with their mobile networks to receive the most current phone number. We implemented these features to simplify the process of registering for and logging in to our apps, but we also know it’s important to protect people’s privacy and give them control over their information. To provide that control, we are rolling out updated login, registration, and account recovery screens for people who are using our apps via our mobile service partners in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
These new screens inform people on participating networks that Facebook requests and receives up-to-date phone numbers from their mobile network. They also give people an opportunity to opt out of sharing the number for account access purposes. These phone numbers are only used for account access (to make it easier for people to register for an account, log in, or recover access to an account) and to provide programs in partnership with mobile operators. On our mobile applications, we have also updated the logout screens that inform people they have the option to save their login information to make it easier to access their account in the future.
Understanding the challenges
In some cases, people are new not only to our apps and websites, but also to the internet as a whole. They may never have set up a username or password before. In areas where people often have friends, shopkeepers, or family members set up social media accounts for them, they may not be setting their own passwords.
When these new users go to log in to their accounts, many may not know or remember their passwords. In addition, mobile phones are frequently the primary way to access services. Many people don’t have an email address at all, so it’s common to use a phone number to access our apps and websites. In addition, in many of these markets, it’s also common practice to use multiple SIM cards from different mobile operators to find the best possible connection and call quality in different locations.
According to the GSMA Mobile Economy Report, the number of SIM connections in 2018 (excluding cellular “internet of things” devices) totaled 7.9 billion globally. In emerging markets, the SIM ownership ratio is often higher than the global average. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, many consumers use multiple SIMs through dual-SIM handsets. In 2018, there were 456 million unique mobile subscribers but 774 million SIM connections — an average of 1.7 SIM cards per person.
This practice of using multiple SIMs on the same phone makes it much more difficult for people to remember which is the primary SIM when they are creating an account with one of our apps. In these cases, we are able to request the phone number from their primary SIM and prefill the form for them.
Simplifying the login process
To help people in these markets, we have made changes to the logout screens on our mobile apps, like Facebook Lite, and our mobile website, which were developed specifically for entry-level devices and areas where bandwidth is at a minimum. Given the challenges detailed above, we wanted to give people an option to save their login information to make it easier to come back to their accounts the next time. We do this as they are logging out of the app or browser so that they will be prompted before they leave the site. We believe these updated logout screens will help people maintain access to our services.