Are Facebook Quizzes Harmless Fun?
It's no surprise that interactive content like quizzes and personality assessments are gaining in popularity. They're fun, engaging, and very, very shareable.
Studies show that the average quiz gets shared 1,900 times.1 The number one story in The New York Times in 2013 was actually a quiz.2
It's tempting to jump on the bandwagon when your friends are posting their results from the latest "What fictional character are you?" personality quiz, but you might want to think twice before joining in the fun. Facebook quizzes almost always collect data about users and some developers are using that information maliciously.
How Quizzes Impact Your Personal Privacy No doubt you are familiar with popups like this one that appear when you attempt to download an app or take a quiz on Facebook. This is your first red flag that the quiz developer will be gathering more information about you if you choose to allow it in exchange for access to the quiz. Dig a little deeper, however, and you'll discover that not only will your own information be transmitted to the developer, but often your friends' information is up for grabs, too.
Facebook gives more detail about their privacy policies on their privacy page at www.facebook.com/about/ privacy. What's really scary is what Facebook doesn't cover in their terms and conditions: "Information collected by these apps, websites or integrated services is subject to their own terms and policies."
So even if Facebook itself is interested in protecting your privacy, these third-party developers might not be. There's a good chance your information will be used for marketing purposes, which is benign enough. But there's also the chance that your personal information will be sold to the highest bidder.
Other Risks You Might Not Know About
In the fall of 2015, a virally popular quiz called "Your Most Used Words on Facebook" was going around the social media network. It turned out that the developers were scammers using the quiz to collect intimate data about users such as birthdates and work locations. That type of data farming can be taken to a dangerous level when the information is used in certain ways. Credit card fraud is one of the ways data collection can harm innocent quiz-takers. Immediately shut down any quiz that asks you for identifying information or your credit card number. Another way scammers take advantage of quiz takers is by hiding malicious code inside quizzes. When you click the "accept" button to start the quiz, malware is downloaded to your computer, phone, or tablet.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Data Thieves
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to be aware. Understand that when you take a quiz and it requests permission to access your information, your acceptance of those terms can put your personal information and that of your friends up for grabs. Your best bet is to not take quizzes that require permission to access your information. This applies to quizzes on and off of Facebook. Other things you can do to protect yourself include:
- Adjust your Facebook privacy settings
Click Settings, then Privacy Settings, then Applications, then Settings. Deselect any information you don't want shared without your permission. Also, review your settings in the "Who can see my stuff?" section. It's a good idea to keep as much of your information private as possible to you and your friends.
- Trim your profile
Remove unnecessary details from your personal profile. Facebook requires a few pieces of information from you when you're setting up a new account, but much of that information is not required. If information is not required in order to maintain your account (for example, where you went to school or where you work), consider removing it.
- Unlink apps from your Facebook account
Unless you're actively using an app, you don't need to keep it connected to your account. Click Settings, then Apps. Hover over the app you wish to remove and click the X to remove it.
It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Scammed
Facebook quizzes are entertaining, for sure. They can also be dangerous. If permission to access your personal information is a requirement for taking a quiz, think twice about taking it. You might be putting your private information — and that of your friends — at risk.