The True Cost of Those Alluring Online Quizzes

quiz-imageThey’ve become all the rage for kids and adults alike.  After all, within a matter of minutes and a few clicks of the keyboard, anyone can determine: “Which Celebrity Do You Resemble?” “What Classic Disney Princess Are You?”  “Are You Actually Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” “Which State Do I Actually Belong In?”  “How Young Are You At Heart?”  “What Is Your IQ!”  Quiz lovers and anyone seeking instant gratification or feedback about their intelligence, identity, or personality traits are up to the challenge.

There’s no denying that online quizzes and surveys can be enticing. Long before the Internet was around, they appeared in an assortment of magazines and publications. Today however, the seemingly harmless quizzes that have taken over social media feeds and appear regularly on search engine ads have driven up online traffic in record numbers to the delight of quiz developers. The results can then be instantly shared or posted to friends and any online connections. Children also partake in this viral quiz-taking phenomenon as it’s a fun and easy way to compare and share results with their friends.

But the question must be asked: Is there a cost to taking online quizzes?

The answer is a resounding yes. While many get easily sucked in to answer a set of seemingly unrelated questions to appease their curiosity, participating in online quizzes can come with a hefty price.

Although they can seem like a momentarily thrill ride as questions and images are designed to engage the quiz taker, the user is often not aware that these quizzes are a data-mining haven for the quiz developer—and even fraudsters—to collect personal data, and in some cases their money.

If you’ve ever taken a Facebook quiz, you’ll be asked to log in with your social media profile before the results can be posted for friends to see. Most often, a popup screen will ask you to allow access “to pull your provide information, photos, your friend’s info, and other content that it requires do work.” It goes on to say:

 “By proceeding, you are allowing [Insert Quiz Name] to access your information and you are agreeing to the Facebook Terms of Use in your use of [Insert Quiz Name.]” 

Did you catch that?  Your profile information is being accessed by the quiz developer (and your Facebook friends’ information is being accessed without their knowledge or permission)! The abundance of information being shared can include photos, your personal information and interests, work and education history, groups you belong to, religious views and more.

Participating in online quizzes can also lead to unwanted ads that follow you long after you’ve taken a quiz, or request a required payment or purchase with a credit card (which opens up a whole host of problems with potential credit card fraud) before results can be accessed. Even more disturbing, terms and privacy policies stemming from quizzes are sometimes found on an entirely different domain from that on which the quiz appeared. Developers are likely banking on the fact that quiz takers will breeze right through the small print allowing third-party service providers to collect a whole slew of information about personal income, buying habits, and so forth, which are then put on display for marketers ready and willing to pay for specific, targeted data.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your child?  First and foremost, if the temptation is too strong to bypass these quizzes, adjust your social media privacy settings and deselect anything you do not want shared without your permission. Also, make sure you know who your Facebook Friends are (and especially your child’s Facebook Friends if they have an account) as they may be able to share your profile information (or your child’s profile information) by taking part in these quizzes.

Teach your kids not to take these quizzes without your permission. That way, you can monitor what information they are voluntarily providing (whether they realize it or not). Of course, caution your children about posting personal or contact information, including your child’s full name, address, phone number, passwords, and financial information that should only be provided on a secure site under parental supervision.

If you’re uncertain as to how to monitor social media accounts, Enough Is Enough has a host of brief Internet Safety 101 “Rules ‘N Tools” videos available on You Tube that show how to set privacy settings, and provides instruction on ways you can know your child’s online activities and friends. Click here to view the safety videos.

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So next time if you want to find out if your intelligence meets the “genius” criteria, or determine what your biological age really is, first consider the privacy rights you may be relinquishing by taking the quiz. Better yet, just bypass these quizzes all together. If you must indulge, take them the old fashioned way with paper and pencil.

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