Internet Quizzes: Why shouldn’t you answer questions on Facebook?

When I was in high school, internet quizzes were all the rage. My friends and I would spend hours sitting around the firepit in the backyard, giggling as we asked our phones to tell us which Harry Potter character we were most like (I was Tonks) or what type of salad we were (apparently, I was a Cobb salad).

While these quizzes were fun, they usually asked us to log in to Facebook or provide an email to get results. Being the immature teens that we were, and having limited knowledge about cyber security, we had no hesitations about entering this information. 

Looking back though, freely giving our info was probably not our best decision. While we were asking these quizzes about ourselves, the quizzes were digging for our private information! 

So before you ask questions like “are facebook quizzes accurate?” or “what are the best online quizzes?”, let’s first ask “Is it safe to play games on Facebook?”

How do these quizzes work?

The general idea of Facebook quizzes is pretty simple. A flashy ad will show up on your timeline saying something like “What kind of sandwich are you?” or “Click here to find out the name of your soulmate!” It might look something like this ad for an IQ test that I saw while scrolling through Facebook earlier this week:

These ads may not seem very tempting to adults, but it’s a different story for tweens and teens. Think about it: when you were in the thralls of adolescence, there was nothing more confusing than figuring out who you are. Facebook quizzes like these offer instant gratification, and a quick and easy way to discover more about yourself—or so the websites would have our kids believe.

So you or your kids click on the ad. Next, you will likely see a screen asking for permission to access your Facebook account, like this one:

You decide to continue and let the app have access. After all, it says that “this doesn’t let the app post to Facebook” and it only wants to see your friends list! Harmless, right?

Not necessarily. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, and Facebook quizzes are a great example of why you should not play games on Facebook.

How do quizzes get your information?

So why shouldn’t you answer questions on Facebook, and how do these quizzes get your info? 

Firstly, quizzes may ask specific questions that put your privacy at risk. 

While some quizzes simply ask what type of food you enjoy for lunch, other questions are personal and probing, putting you at risk of exposing your private information. When you share the make of your first car or your favorite movie, you’re also sharing answers to common account security questions. Hackers and third-parties can then use these answers to gain access to your personal accounts, which may result in financial or identity theft.

It’s not just the questions you need to watch out for though—it’s also the quiz itself. In addition to asking compromising questions, CommonSenseMedia states that hackers use these quizzes to “plug into a social media host and collect information that’s located in your Facebook profile, including your political and religious views.”

Hackers then sell this info to companies that use your data to run targeted ads, send you an influx of promotional emails, and even influence political elections.

Do Facebook quizzes sell your data?

Facebook itself does not sell your data, as they very explicitly state in their data policy. However, people and accounts you choose to share info with can see your private info. This may include third party quiz developers. When you let third-parties have access to your Facebook, you effectively allow these developers to see all your content!

While Facebook may not sell your info, that doesn’t stop third party hackers from using quizzes to gain access to and use your data—just as the 63,000 Facebook users whose data was compromised after they took a shady quiz.

Here’s how to avoid social media scams:

  • Update your passwords. Try to change your passwords frequently (every three months at the most), and make sure to use different passwords for each website. This way if you are hacked, the hackers are unable to use the same password to gain access to every account.
  • Don’t answer personal questions. If a quiz asks for the name of the street you grew up on or your high school mascot, just don’t answer! It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so don’t hesitate to click off the quiz if it seems personally probing.
  • Adjust your privacy settings. Make sure you have your social media profiles set to the most private settings! Ensure that only friends can see your posts, and delete any users that seem fishy from your profile.
  • Delete old accounts. If you’re not using a social media account, delete it! Hackers can gain information by going through your old profiles, so take out the trash and cleanse yourself of defunct accounts.
  • Use two-factor authentication. Most social media websites have two-factor authentication functionality. This means that when you log in to your account, you will receive a code via text or email that you need to enter in order to log in. This is a great way to keep your account secure from any hackers.
  • Trust your instincts. If a quiz or game question feels shady, trust your gut feeling and keep scrolling past it. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
  • Try Troomi! Our KidSmart phones eliminate social media entirely, so you and your kids don’t have to waste any time worrying about these potential scams. Click here for more info!

So next time you wonder what TV show heroine you are or how many grandchildren you’re going to have, don’t turn to a quiz. They do more harm than good.