Cars & Gadgets

Those 'Free' Facebook Quizzes Are Stealing Your Personal Data

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is taking the rap.
IMAGE BURST/ PEXELS
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We get it—those random Facebook quizzes are a lot of fun, and good for laughs. We like cracking jokes about our friends’ results and showing off our own on our walls. It's all fun and games. Or so we think.

These quizzes aren't really free—for every click, you're giving away your information, and putting your privacy at risk. Apps often ask you to log in with Facebook so that they can see your public profile and friends list. While some quiz sites only use your information to generate results and refrain from storing any private data, others are not so scrupulous.

It all depends on the app’s privacy policy, which barely anyone ever bothers to read. For example, Quizzstar's "My Most Used Words" app asks not only for your profile, but also access to your entire Timeline. Its predecessor, WordCloud, asked for your public info, entire friends list, timeline, photos, education history, hometown and current city, everything you've liked, IP address, and info about your browser and language settings. Some of them may keep your data and sell it to advertisers and other companies—and even if they don't, the mere act of giving access to sensitive information already exposes you to risk, and makes you more vulnerable to identity theft.

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Other quizzes may be phishing for personal information. You may have no qualms about answering questions about where you used to live as a child, or what kind of pet you used to have—until you realize that some sites use this info as security questions for entering your account.

Most seriously, articles in both The Atlantic and the New York Times describe how an advertising-data firm called Cambridge Analytica used Facebook personality quizzes to create psychological profiles that were eventually used by the Trump campaign to target potential voters. “Cambridge Analytica says it has as many as 3,000 to 5,000 data points on each of us, be it voting histories or full-spectrum demographics—age, income, debt, hobbies, criminal histories, purchase histories, religious leanings, health concerns, gun ownership, car ownership, homeownership—from consumer-data giants,” reads the NYT article.

Last Friday, on March 17, Bloomberg reported that Facebook was under fire for giving Cambridge Analytica its users' data. CEO Mark Zuckerberg's fortune dipped by $4.9 billion for this exploitation.

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Even people who’ve never taken a quiz in their lives might not be safe. When you let quiz sites view your friends list, those sites will also be able to see whatever information your friends share with you, including their family members and relationships, interests, when they’re online, posts on their timelines, where they live, where they work, and their birthdays. Lest you forget, birthdays and addresses are often used by credit card and phone companies to verify your identity.


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Here’s how you can make sure your information is safe:

1. Avoid Facebook quizzes as much as possible. If you can't get the better of your curiosity, make sure to read the privacy policy first, and regularly review the apps connected to your Facebook account.

2. Don’t complete your Facebook profile—the people you know and can really trust will already be aware of what you do, who you’re related to, and where to find you.

3. To make sure your friends aren’t sharing your personal information, go to Settings > Apps > Apps Others Use. Click on “Edit” and make sure to untick all of the boxes.

4. Take full advantage of your privacy settings. There’s some information that you can’t avoid entering, like your birthday and your cellphone number if you opt for two-factor authentication. Set the visibility for these fields to “Only Me.”

This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.

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* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Angelica Gutierrez for Esquiremag.ph
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