Everybody loves a good Facebook quiz. You know, “Which Game of Thrones character are you?” Which Disney villain Is actually your alter-ego?” “What kind of pet were you in your past life?”
There’s only one small problem. Although most of these quizzes are just harmless entertainment, others have been shown to be sneaky exercises in data-mining and fraud. And for that reason, Facebook has just announced it’s cracking down on them. Well, sort of.
The most notorious recent example of a privacy invasion masquerading as fun Facebook personality quiz was the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which used a quiz to harvest the personal data of millions of people's Facebook profiles without their consent and use it for political purposes.
In a blog post last week, Facebook announced:
"[Apps] that provide (or claim to provide) users with assessments of personality, personal attributes, character traits, behavioral tendencies, or whose core functionality otherwise involves making predictions about who the user is, may not be allowed."
That doesn’t mean the company will ban all quizzes, only - possibly - those intended to identify or predict the behaviour of users.
As many commentators have pointed out, that leaves a wide margin for error.
What's the problem?
If you’ve ever taken a Facebook quiz, you’ve probably seen a screen that looks like this:
If you’re like most users, you probably skimmed right over the fine print. But have a look at it now.
Then there’s this disclaimer on Facebook’s Privacy Update page:
“Information collected by … third-party services is subject to their own terms and policies, not this one.”
Translation? Whoever created the quiz will have their own set of rules, which Facebook is neither willing nor able to oversee.
Here's an example
Consider one of the most popular viral quizzes of a couple of years ago: the "10 Concerts I've Been To" survey. It looked like this:
Seems innocent enough, right?
Wrong - because it just so happens that one of the top security questions for many sites is "What's the first concert you attended?"
Anyone who completed this “survey” unknowing handed a scammer an efficient tool to hack their online accounts.
How can I protect myself?
The new crackdown on quizzes like these may or may not stop such practices, so it’s smarter to stay on the safe side.
Update your privacy settings - especially “Who can see my stuff?” While you’re at it, have a look through your Activity Log and edit posts you've been tagged in.
Be more mysterious Facebook asks you all kinds of nosy questions when you set up your profile, and you may have assumed that you had to answer them. You didn't! Go back and delete information you don't want to be publicly accessible.
Be paranoid If a quiz seems suss, it probably is. If it doesn’t, it may still be. If you're unsure about the creators’ motives, it's probably best to scroll on.
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