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Those Harmless Facebook Quizzes May Not Be so Harmless After All

“What does your hair color say about your personality?” “Which breed of dog are you?” “Which U.S. city is your perfect fit?” You likely see compelling questions such as these in your daily Facebook feed. Perhaps you even click on them to find out more silly tidbits about yourself. Sounds simple enough, but the problem is, you aren’t just playing a game to find out silly things about yourself, you are sharing information that could be used to compromise your identity and data, and even that of your friends. Here’s what you need to know.

data snooper

How quizzes work to compromise your data and identity

That harmless quiz was an app, and all those answers you clicked most likely did not simply disappear into a huge internet trash bin. That information was collected by the app and is now in the hands of someone you don’t know. In the wrong hands, a person could use that information to compromise your social accounts and allow them to access personal information from your profile, including religious and political views. They can also find out information about the people you know — and those people may also be taking quizzes and sharing information about you. The people collecting this data now have enough information to start grouping profiles according to similar likes and dislikes, a valuable commodity for someone wishing to target their ads or messages to a certain group of like-minded individuals.

Some quizzes can steal your data outright. A hacker can embed links within a quiz that, when clicked, cause a security breach of your personal accounts, which they can then use to lure additional victims.

Who’s doing what with your information?

Think of the information you are giving away to the quiz creator, and whomever that person or company chooses to share it with. Do you answer questions about your birthday, your first pet’s name, or where you went to high school? Answers to these questions may help hackers crack your passwords as these types of questions are often used as security questions.

What about your favorite movie, sport, or hobby? Answers to these questions are a marketer’s gold mine. Companies will use this information to target their promotions, offers, and advertising.

selling your data

Surely you haven’t forgotten the Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal. The political research firm accessed information from millions of Facebook users — who answered a personality quiz. Little did they know that when they downloaded the app, they unwittingly gave it permission to collect data about them, as well as their friends.

Protect yourself

Not all Facebook or other social media quizzes are about devious data collection or hacking accounts. Some truly are just for fun and your answers go no further. But you still need to be wary. Here are a few ways to protect yourself:

  • Look closely at the questions the quiz is asking and which information it is requesting from your profile. Is this information you want strangers or companies to have? Never give answers to common security questions, such as your mother’s maiden name, street you grew up on, or the name of your best friend from high school.
  • Strengthen your privacy settings by manually determining with whom you want to share which information.
  • Remove any apps you don’t use or that require you to grant too many permissions.
  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.

Probably the best piece of advice for when that quiz that wants to determine what fruit you are appears in your social media feed: Just continue scrolling.