[ALERT] Facebook Surveys and Quizzes

Category: Privacy

Social media is awash in little quizzes, games and surveys that pop up in your timeline and charm you into participating in them. Who can resist reminiscing about their first car, first love, or first job? But watch your responses carefully -- they may reveal the hidden keys to your online privacy. Here's what you need to know...

Why You Shouldn’t Play Those Facebook Quiz Games

“What was the name of the street you grew up on?” If that sounds like a mini-quiz question, congratulations! It’s a very common one. You’re supposed to reminisce, inspire memories among your friends, and talk about the good old days of your childhood neighborhoods. There’s just one problem with doing that online.

“What street did you grow up on?” is a common “secret” question asked by banking and other financially sensitive sites. The answer can be used to reset your password and regain access to an account, or it can be used by a hacker to hijack your account. If you played the quiz game, you gave away the answer to one of your “secret” questions and encouraged friends to do the same. D’oh!

The make and model of your first car? The name of your first pet? Your first job? These and similar questions are asked by quiz games and bank sites alike. If you can't resist the urge to participate, you should lie to one of them, and I bet you know which one it should be.

Facebook data mining

That’s right: lie to the quiz game. After all, it’s just a throwaway bit of amusement, not a legal deposition under oath! Save the true answer for your banking site because, as Judge Judy says, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember what you said.” You can just repeat the truth which does not change from day to day.

Tell the world (and the quizzes) that your favorite movie is “Waterworld” or any flick with Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. The world may point at you and laugh but at least your secret question’s answer will remain secret. That’s what counts. My first pet’s name was, “Cute Baby Lizard.” Honest! Hey, I was only 4 years old, OK?

Beyond the possibility of compromising the keys to your online kingdom, there is a serious privacy concern with these online games, surveys, and personality quizzes. Each time you participate in one of these, you'll notice a popup that asks you to give permission for the quiz to access certain bits of information. Commonly, the quiz will request access to your Facebook profile information. That includes your name, gender, location, photos, activities, interests, education and work history, relationship status, groups to which you belong, and other info.

Are you willing to hand over all of that sensitive and personal information to an unknown person, just to find out what animal shares your personality, your dominant spiritual color, your true emotional age, how many commonly misspelled words you know, or the Harry Potter character you most resemble?

Unintended Consequences - Part 19

Giving away seemingly inconsequential information about yourself can have serious real-world consequences. Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based upstart data analytics firm, claimed they could predict how Americans would vote. To make such predictions accurately, you have to understand what makes people vote one way or the other. Big data - enormous dossiers of seemingly trivial facts and inferences about each member of a population -- can be crunched to answer that seemingly impossible-to-answer question.

Nobody has bigger data on Americans than Facebook, right? (Actually, Google’s treasury is ten times bigger and older than Facebook’s, but that is a tale for another time.) Cambridge Analytica obtained Facebook’s deepest data on some 50 million Americans, created a simulation model to turn that data into a prognostication machine, and attempted to sway voters in several elections.

Cambridge Analytica calls its method “psychographics” and says it’s built upon over 5,000 data points it has on some 230 million Americans. Kind of sounds like Professor Hari Seldon’s “psychohistory” algorithm that allowed him to predict the future in probabilistic terms. (Come on, there must be some Asimov fans among my readers!) But psychohistory actually worked, at least in the Foundation Trilogy’s fictional world.

Psychographics, the mathematically mystical “science” coined by Cambridge Analytica, was never actually used on any 2016 election. It wasn’t ready for prime time. In fact, the New York Times and other outlets reported, there was no algorithm beneath the shiny new hood ornament named “psychographics” at the time Cambridge Analytica sold its services to campaigns nationwide. It was all smoke and mirrors! But still, they ended up with all of that data, and we have no way of knowing who else with whom Facebook may have "shared" all the (presumed private) details of your life.

What do you think... is it any coincidence that quiz game developers and big data miners want answers to the same questions that banks ask for security purposes? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[ALERT] Facebook Surveys and Quizzes"

(See all 26 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

11 Apr 2018

I have read quite a bit about this and there is no evidence to date of attempting to sway the election. Giving facts to voters is hardly influencing anything.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2018

I think it is pretty standard now that you do not give true answers to secret questions. Things like your mothers maiden name, first car and any number of these questions are not that hard to find out, and remember, it is not just random criminals looking for this kind of info. Somebody close to you may use this info as well.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2018

Anyone with a Facefool account is just that, a fool. Why do you think "it's free and always will be"? YOU are the product they are selling and making the guy that called Facebook users "dumb f@@@s" very, very rich.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2018

@Howard: "Giving facts to voters is hardly influencing anything." Really? Leaving aside, for a moment, unsubstantiated opinion and straightforward lies, by selecting which facts you are "given", and drip-feeding you with those which support a particular cause, it is wholly possible to influence opinion. If you doubt that you can be persuaded, consider why all this data was amassed in the first place — for targeting advertisements — an industry worth $millions that funds most of the "free" services that we enjoy online. Bob may be straight and fair with us (I trust so) but his page has ads tailored to his likely audience — if it didn't work they wouldn't pay for it.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2018

Yeah, I thought "that sounds just like "Foundation", and then I saw it at the end of the sentence.

Read the series at least twice and my daughter read it when she was 14. When she moved out after college, the Foundation books went with her. Dang! I wouldn't mind reading it again now at age 85. Bet it's still a great saga.

Remember what "the Sentinel" turned into?

Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
11 Apr 2018

"Psychographics"? The only problem with Cambridge Analytica was that they were using the info on behalf of Cruz, and then Trump, while Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg were enormous Obama & Hillary supporters.

And Hari Seldon? Please! Hari Seldon, as revealed in the last Foundation novel, is a mind-controlled puppet of the immortal psychic Robot Daneel Olivaw. So even in Asimov's novels, Seldon was smart, but manipulated. Figurehead rather than hero.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2018

Everyone just needs to remember that one should approach the Internet as if it was the front page of the newspaper. If you would not want your information published on the front page of all newspapers, don't put it online.
And remember, the only secure computer is one that is not connected to a network, not connected to a power source, and is buried eight feet underground.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2018

I never give 'real' answers even to the bank or credit card security questions....Mother's maiden name? Public information! My phone number? Public information! Place I was born? Public information! Social security number? Birth date? Birthstone? Public information! Same for street I grew up on, favorite vacation destination, just about everything. Personal income or property? NOYB!!!! I do give the same 'fake' information over and over again, so have memorized my 'fake' data and know it as well as the real thing. Never post personal info, photos, videos online that you don't want some serial killer, psycho, or next-door neighbor to latch onto. Yes, I watch too many crime dramas. Always better to DO YOUR OWN serious fact-checking and also be cautious, than sorry or worse. And no, my name isn't "Texana". Great article, Bob (is that your real name?? LOL)

Posted by:

Hugh Gautier
11 Apr 2018

Face Book is not to be trusted no matter what Mark Zuckerberg tells congress members. I do not allow 3rd party APPS to be used while I'm on Face Book, nor do I put anything financial into their service. I also don't list my year of birth on the site, so I'm not getting email messages based on my age. [72 years]
I've let them know that the choice of "Friends of Friends" or "Everyone" isn't a choice, but it is Hobson's choice. I don't mind my friends, but I don't want their friends that I might or might not know.
I did get my information off of my page, and what Zuckerberg said about what is in it was right. But it didn't make me feel any more secure. To me, Face Book is an over blown advertising agency, willing to let 3rd party vendors sell our information to whom knows.

Posted by:

Jay R
11 Apr 2018

How long has it been since I read Foundation?Probably early 60s. It might be time to do it again. Or maybe I can just watch this FB thing unfold. I am just sad that my first pet, Big Barker, threw up all over the inside of my first car, an XKE. (That memory is burned into my brain like I made it up a minute ago.)

Posted by:

12 Apr 2018

I was thinking of Asimov's Foundation. Then I saw another reader's fine comment.

Thank you for the overview and caution. Now I've more reasons why one must be thoughtful when interacting with the Internet or similar actor.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2018

@Jim >> Flaming innocent (and/or possibly naive) Facebook users is pointless and rude.
I am betting that you use an Android phone and make use of a variety of Google services. It would not surprise me one bit that you also have a variety of credit cards and discount memberships at many stores, because they are convenient and/or save you money. Am I also the fool to guess that your FICA score worries you because of the next loan you are planning? Then, your post becomes nothing but like the pot calling the kettle full of soot.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2018

What this great country of ours really needs is a "DIGITAL BILL of RIGHTs"; as our fore-founders could not have predicted this current outcome.
As much as I have a disdain for the EU elite, they are heading in the correct direction with GDPR.
Unfortunately, it may be too much to wish of our own government.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2018

When Zuckerberg testified before Congress this week he WAS NOT UNDER OATH!

Posted by:

Stephen Earle
12 Apr 2018

I too thought of Psychohistory when I heard this bogus term "psychographics." Considering Asimov's bona fide scientific credentials and his mastery of story telling, I'd buy his version of future history over this pseudo-scientific nonsense any time. Could it be that when Cambridge Analytica was fishing about for a name to impress, someone made the connection with "Encyclopedia Galactica?" Call on Dors Venabili for an opinion.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2018

Yet another fake crisis to be used by politicians to increase their power. People put things on Facebook so that others can view it, there should be no complaint when it is viewed.

Posted by:

DBA Steve
12 Apr 2018

I never use the "real" answer to security questions on bank websites. In response to "what street did you grow up on?" I might use "Benny Goodman" as the answer.

Even before the inter-web existed, my mother had several different maiden names. Mother maiden name was a common question with banks even back in the 1960s. I never gave the same answer to more than one bank.

Today, password managers (like RoboForm) make it very easy to always give nonsense answers to questions.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2018

Not just your personal data actually posted is sold, but Facebook plunders your browser history to enable FB to sell targeted advertising. You can avoid this - use a separate browser, like Vivaldi, solely for FB.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2018

It is time for everyone to re-evaluate their participation in Facebook and Google. I, personally, have resisted signing up for Facebook altogether - and now feel vindicated by my caution.

As for Google - I have limited by activities to YouTube (for their excellent selection of classical music) and Google Voice (for inexpensive overseas calling from my cell phone). For either of these services, I recommend providing the absolute minimum "profile" information.

Despite Bob's enthusiastic endorsement of G-Mail, I have avoided it like the "plague"! I greatly prefer using a good email client through your ISP and to configure it to remove both incoming and outgoing mail from their server immediately after processing.

Your email can still be accessed this way on the Web when away from home base - but your privacy will not be unduly compromised. For even greater privacy - an encrypted email service can be utilized when absolutely required. We are deep into the era of "big brother" and need to take measures to protect our privacy and financial security!

Posted by:

15 Apr 2018

Yes there is at least one Asimov fan amongst your readers and the Foundation Trilogy was great.Have enjoyed your newsletters for some time now and always get something from them.

There's more reader feedback... See all 26 comments for this article.

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