Learning the news: Facebook quiz quandry

Those Facebook quizzes? You know the ones that ‘let’ you log in with Facebook? They’re probably not worth it, writes Roger Plothow.

Nothing on the internet is as it seems.

You know those cute little quizzes on Facebook and elsewhere, like: “Which Greek Goddess are you,” or “If you can answer these questions you’re smarter than Einstein”? Let’s stop and think for a moment why they exist.

Got it yet?

When you click on one of these, it will ask you “Log in with Facebook.” Then what happens? Besides getting access to a completely ridiculous quiz, you have given all of your Facebook data to a third party. Congratulations!

I did an experiment last week. I took one of these quizzes that had 10 questions. I intentionally answered each question inaccurately. It gave me a score of 9/10 and called me a Spectacularly Handsome Genius Who Women Find Irresistible and Men Admire. Or something like that.

And now, tucked away in some unknown database, is all of my personal Facebook information. It will be used to market things to me, or worse, to attempt to scam me.

One of the favorite Facebook apps is one that will make a word cloud out of the words you use most frequently on Facebook. Stop and imagine what kind of information you’ve given over to that app to allow it to generate that word cloud.

Some app providers say they are gathering the data just to improve the quality of their quizzes. Mmhmmm. Even though the fine print almost always says they are allowed to sell your information to third parties, they don’t. Honest.

So, somewhere there is an app developer – hundreds, apparently – who just wants to bring a little light into your otherwise dreary Facebook life. It is comforting to know how many people out there exist solely to make our lives more interesting.

Lisa Vaas, who writes a blog called “Naked Security,” has a suggestion: “As much fun as it is to see what cat you’re most suited to or which Disney Princess is your soul mate; if you have to hand over the keys to your privacy to find out, repeat after me: it’s not worth it.”

I confess: I’ve taken these quizzes. I want to show how smart I am or what kind of personality I have. It’s a bit of fun. Of course, I place strict limitations on who can see my Facebook page because, well, it’s my personal sandbox and I only invite those I want to play with. And then I spew my personal information through a fire hose to anyone running an app asking me questions about the greatest American novels of all time.

I’m an idiot. I have stopped, but there’s no telling when my stupidity will come back to haunt me.

By the way, I’m a genius on American literature.


Roger Plothow is editor and chief of the Post Register. This is part of a weekly year-long series on media literacy.


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