Have you ever wondered what your pornstar name would be like? How about your celebrity look-a-like? Do you know who among your friends is a bad influence? How about those who will never betray you?
You probably have. And you’ve probably encountered a quiz or two on Facebook that promise to give you the answers to these interesting—oftentimes odd—questions. Heck, you might have answered one already at this point.
But are you aware that you may be putting yourself (and even your friends) at risk by patronizing these types of tests?
How they work
In order to take part in a test, you generally have to agree to allow the company behind it to access to your Facebook data. A quiz often won't work without this permission. That means you disclose your public profile, email address, friends list, and more. Sometimes, even your mobile number is required in order for you to obtain the “results”.
As for the quiz itself, it typically asks you to answer seemingly innocuous personal questions that require you to share or disclose your profile photo, the name of your pet, your best friend, the street you live in, or your birth city. Most people do not hesitate to answer. They see these tests as a fun way to bond with friends online and— admit it—the outcome can sometimes be hilarious.
After completing the test, you are either encouraged or required to share the results in your Facebook timeline.
Why they are bad
That doesn’t seem so bad, right? Well, perhaps you’d reconsider if you knew about the following:
- Oftentimes, they are nothing more than glorified clickbaits. Clickbaits are online content whose main purpose is to attract your attention and encourage you to click on a link that takes you to a particular web page you may have had no intention of visiting.
- They are out to get your personal data. Practically every quiz is a ruse to get your personal data. They are designed by a diverse range of people and organizations — from hackers to advertising agencies — who have something to gain from getting as much information about you as they can. Once they have your data, they can use it for various purposes and store it anywhere in the world, including countries without strong privacy laws.
- They make you vulnerable to viruses, adware, and other malware. Hackers often disguise malicious links and embed them in these quizzes. Once you click on them, you may have already been tricked into giving access to your social media account, or worse, your computer may have already been triggered into downloading harmful content from the internet. Some of these applications continue running in the background unless you actively delete them (assuming you are aware that they’re there, to begin with).
- They make you vulnerable to identity theft. What many people don’t realize is that many of the questions in these quizzes are similar—if not identical—to security questions used by banks and other companies. With the information you give through these quizzes, hackers can actually build a profile or dossier about you, and later hack into your online accounts or perform various actions on your behalf without your knowledge.
- They use you to perpetuate the scam. Most quizzes go viral by making every test-taker their very own agent. First, they manage to get hold of your list of friends. Then, they require or encourage you to share the quiz itself. To do this, the people behind these tests make them easy to pass or are designed to give off a positive image of the test-taker—after all, nobody wants to share anything negative about themselves, like the fact that they failed a test.
What to do
The best and only way to keep yourself safe from the people behind these quizzes and polls is abstinence. That means avoiding them completely. Anyway, nearly all of them have no scientific basis to fall back on, and are therefore useless. They almost always come with a disclaimer: “all content is provided for fun and entertainment purposes only”. Surely, there are safer ways to have fun online.
That said, if you simply cannot resist taking these quizzes, at least know the risks you are exposing yourself to and exercise caution when dealing with them. Here are some tips for you to keep in mind:
- Be wary of quizzes and polls that ask you to sign in. This is usually the part where you give access to some or all information in your Facebook account, or allow the downloading of an application that comes with some quizzes.
- Don’t always trust links even if a friend posted them. You can be as careful as you want, but your friend may not. You need to take this seriously if you’re the type who accepts all friend requests that come your way—even those from complete strangers.
- Only participate in quizzes from reputable companies that protect data. This is extremely hard to do, but it’s one way being cautious about it. Try reading their privacy policies or terms first before diving in.
- Never give certain personal facts or information or just plain out lie. Data privacy is more prominent today than ever before, but in most cases, your sound decision-making remains your best protection. Draw the line somewhere and swear not to give information that are obviously very sensitive or confidential. Better yet, you can always lie to these quizzes or give random answers.
- Install and update your anti-virus software. Don’t forget to protect your hardware, too—be it your phone, or your computer. Always keep your antivirus software and its virus database up to date, to prevent unauthorized or accidental downloads of malicious online content.
Jamael Jacob is a lawyer specializing in the field of law, ICT, and human rights. He is currently the Director of the University Data Protection Office of the Ateneo de Manila University, and Policy and Legal Advisor to the Foundation for Media Alternatives. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the organizations he is currently affiliated with.