Online quizzes could mean privacy nightmare, cyber experts issue warning

Online quizzes could mean privacy nightmare, cyber experts issue warning. (KSNV)

We've all seen those quirky quizzes pop up on our Facebook timelines at one point or another.

We click them thinking it's all in good fun, but cybersecurity experts say those quizzes aren't what they seem and have the potential to be a privacy nightmare.

For some like UNLV student Brianna Jaffe, it seems like a harmless way to pass the time.

"I always do those to kill time", Jaffe said.

For others, it's the appeal of finding out the answers to some pretty outrageous questions, like “What song fits your personality?” “Would you survive a serial killer movie?” or “What dog breed matches your personality?"

These catchy quizzes have quickly proven to be click bait for online users, like UNLV student Merald Knight.

"The last quiz I took was “what's your true age?" Knight said.

Cybersecurity experts warn that these quizzes aren't all their cracked up to be. Most of them ask a series of questions like,

“Where would rather travel?” and “Which item would you choose to accessorize your outfit?”

Experts say the questions are really trying to figure out what you like, so that third parties can better gear their advertisements toward you.

There are some quizzes that don't require you to answer questions.

Instead, they request permission to access your Facebook account or other online accounts and then analyze all of your information---like posts, comments, and things you've liked.

That's something that cybersecurity expert Mack Jackson Jr. warns against.

"It's free for us to sign up for Facebook, but Facebook makes their money by selling our personal identifiable information to advertisers.

If these quiz sites are linked to Facebook for example, they'll take that information from Facebook to the advertiser", said Jackson.

Jaffe says she's finally starting to put two and two together,

"It is weird I always click it and it takes me to a different website. I’ve never even heard of these websites", she said.

Even if these online quizzes really were trying to give you a real insight into who you are, Jackson says stop and think.

How would they actually provide real analysis of your personality by asking you six fairly unrelated questions or by just analyzing your Facebook history?

Jackson notes that once you share those quiz results, not only are you giving those third-party sites access to your Facebook profile, now all of your friends see the results and they want to play along as well, putting their information on the line too.

"It makes me not want to do them anymore", said Jaffe.

Although, some people may think a few extra advertisements couldn’t hurt and continue taking the quizzes, but Jackson says not only does sharing your personal information with third parties get you specially made advertisements, it can also end up getting you hacked.

"If you're thinking as far as advertisers and marketers, they want to gather that information which sounds great as long as you let the individual know.

However, what if the website is nefarious and the information that they're gathering is used to put together a profile of the individual for cyber hacking.” Jackson said.

It’s a warning that Merald Knight says he doesn't plan on taking lightly,

"I'm not gonna take those quizzes anymore. I'd like my personal privacy to not be used in that manner. Social media and the internet is expanding so there's only so much I guess I can do." Knight said.

However, Jackson says there are ways to protect your personal information, and it starts with being more cautious on sites.

"Our biggest defense is awareness, just being aware of the websites you're going to. Just be very skeptical and question everything, it's not all fun and games somebody is making money", said Jackson.

Be cautious of quizzes and polls that want you to sign in.

Don't click on links just because your friend posted it, and only participate in quizzes from reputable sources that protect your data.

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