OPINION: Don’t take those facebook quizzes

At the risk of sounding like an old guy, you really need to think before taking those facebook quizzes. I know it’s probably fun to find out which care bear you are or what percentage Gryffyndor you would be, but before you do, ask yourself what those quizzes are really trying to do.

If you’re lucky it’s just advertising.
A lot of those annoying quizzes that make you click through 17 pages are just trying to get you to click on the ads within them. The companies make money when you do. That in itself isn’t such a bad thing, although personally I find that sort of thing annoying when it’s so many pages.

Or, they could be gathering personal information to sell you more stuff.
Facebook, Buzzfeed and other sites make a living by learning more about you. By learning what you’re likely to click on, they build a profile of the sort of things you want to buy. This profile gives them the opportunity to sell more expensive ads. By now you have noticed that if you click on an ad on one site you might see the same item advertised on others. (This is called remarketing, and disclaimer: Solid Signal does it.) That’s because the first site is automatically buying ads, in real time, to show you on other sites. It also works in reverse. Those same sites where the ads are bought can also sell bunches of information so companies can advertise more efficiently. It’s all a closed loop where companies make money off knowing who you are. (Yes, as I said, Solid Signal does this.

There’s a whole other side to this. Some of these quizzes actually gather enough personal information to guess your passwords all over the internet.

Yeah, I know I sound like your grandmother but it does happen. Most people use some sort of personal information here and there. Your first grade teacher? Your mother’s maiden name? You know you’ve given that information out to other sites. Those sites may be keeping it private, but what if a quiz tricked you into revealing the same information? What if you took a quiz saying “Tell us three things about your teenage years and we’ll tell you what tropical fruit you are.” That sounds kind of dumb but you might do it. So it asks you about the number of bedrooms in your home growing up, whether you liked metal or country, and what sort of car you drove.

See what it did there? Your first car, that’s a privacy question. Now it’s halfway to knowing enough about you to change your password without asking. Chances are with a little robo-searching they can figure out the street you grew up on, too. Or they could just serve you a quiz entitled “Tell us about your hometown and we’ll tell you what kind of latte you would be.” And people will do this. Honest.

I don’t want anyone thinking they have to completely avoid these little bits of fun, but maybe take ten seconds and think about why they’re asking, and then ask yourself: Would you tell this information to a stranger who knocked on your door? If the answer is no, why are you telling the whole internet?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.