Somewhere along the line many of us have grown accustomed to using tools from Facebook, Google, Amazon and other big companies to log in to websites and apps, instead of creating new usernames and passwords for each one.
For instance, Facebook's version looks like this:
But doing this can give these tech giants access to a lot of information about what you're doing — even if you're not using their services directly.
For instance, Facebook says it can collect your IP address (which can be used to figure out your location), browser and operating system information, and data on the app you're using, all so it can better target ads and stories to you when you use Facebook. The ability to collect so much information is one reason why it sometimes seems that Facebook ads are "following" you.
You can regain some control over this information by creating a new account for every site and app. But that means you'd have to remember which username and password you used for each service.
A password manager solves that problem.
Think of it like this: a password manager app is like a "vault" with all of your passwords and logins for every site and app you visit. It's locked with a single key — the only one you need — and when you open that vault, you see all of the passwords and log-ins for all of your accounts.
There are a lot of options to pick from, but I'll walk you through my favorite.
My favorite password manager is called 1Password. There are lots of competitors, including mSecure, Valt, Dashlane Password, LastPass and more, but 1Password has always worked well enough that I haven't found a reason to leave it.
1Password costs $2.99 per month for a single-user account, or $4.99 per month for a family plan that includes support for five users. It also has a free 30-day trial. It works on iPhone, Android, Windows and Mac. There are also tools for web browsers that will automatically fill in your password when you visit a website that's saved in your 1Password vault.
Here's how to install it:
One example of an app that uses single sign-on options is The Washington Post. You can log in with an Amazon account, a Facebook account or a regular Washington Post login.
Previously you might have just used your Facebook account to log in.
But instead, you can create a new log-in from scratch, and store it in 1Password so you never have to remember the password.
First, create a new login and enter it in 1Password:
This is a really great function of password managers: 1Password will automatically generate a strong password for your account. You get to set the length, but the default is 24 characters long, which is pretty good. And you don't need to remember this secure (but long) password, the manager does it for you.
Copy the password you just created in 1Password:
Now put it in the Washington Post app:
Now you can follow these steps for all of your accounts including Google, Snapchat, your bank, billing accounts and more.
This isn't as easy as tapping a button and logging into everything with a Google or Facebook account. But it restricts the amount of information that these tech giants can collect about you, without forcing you to remember a bunch of different passwords.