Q: Are those Facebook quiz posts that I see all the time safe to use, or are they a scam?
A: We’ve all seen them: what does your name truly mean? What nationality do you look like? When and who will you marry?
While very few of them are actual scams, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether they are “safe.”
By now, all Facebook users should understand that they are using a social networking tool that’s free of financial cost because we are all paying with the information we post and interact with: we are the product, not the customer.
Facebook’s ability to monetize our posts, pictures, likes and comments with advertisers is what has taken a stock that traded below $18 less than four years ago to over $118 in the past few months.
The quizzes, friend comparisons and personality tests that you see from Facebook’s many advertisers are from companies primarily in the data gathering business.
How you’re paying
We’re in the era of big data and anyone that participates in these “fun” posts is providing incredibly valuable data about themselves and, often times, their friends to powerful data mining companies.
As soon as you give permission for one of these “cute” apps to access your profile information, they instantly grab as much information as they can get away with because they know very few people pay much attention to permissions or privacy policies.
Your profile data, along with lots of other digital footprints we all leave across the Internet, is what is feeding a multibillion dollar digital tracking industry.
Who’s got your data?
The reality is you have no idea and no control over how they use your highly personal data once they’ve gathered it. Could your “advertising” data some day fall into the hands of someone with nefarious intent? It’s certainly a possibility.
If you’ve ever participated in any of these quizzes, you can remove the permissions that you gave by going to Settings -> Apps in Facebook and clicking the “X” to the right of each listed app.
Unfortunately, even if you remove the permissions from your profile, you cannot revoke the information that they’ve already gathered.
It’s not just your information
Some people may shrug it off as no big deal, but even if you are perfectly comfortable with providing your birthday, age, hometown and current city, email address, everything you’ve ever posted, all of your photos or any photos you’ve been tagged in, or any other profile information that you’ve filled out, you’re usually allowing them to gather various information from your entire network of friends, as well.
If you’re comfortable with all of this, by all means, jump in and learn “which magical creature you are” or “what your face reveals about you” … I’ll take a pass.
Editor’s note: Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services.
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