Why you should steer clear of the 'most used words' Facebook quiz
Published 25/11/2015 | 15:56
If someone came up to you in the street and asked you to give them all your personal information and your friends' details – including your date of birth, all your photos, and contact details for all your friends – in exchange for playing a game, would you agree?
That is essentially what 17.5 million people have done, by taking a viral Facebook "quiz" that promises to tell them which words they use most often in their Facebook statuses.
The quiz has been featured by a range of media outlets.
Created by a company called Vonvon.me, the quiz requires users to sign up to the app using their Facebook login details.
In the process, they give permission for Vonvon.me to access their name, profile picture, age, sex, birthday, education history, home town, current city, IP address and information about the device they are using, as well as their entire friend list, all of their status updates, and all of their likes.
If you try to limit the app's access before authenticating the app with Facebook, Vonvon won’t allow you to play the quiz.
The company says that data could be stored on servers in "many countries around the world", and Vonvon is free to sell your identifiable data (such as your IP address, birthdate and educational history) to literally anybody, for a profit.
As Paul Bischoff, writer for tech blog Comparitech.com, which first highlighted the issue, points out, Vonvon is far from the only company using this kind of technique to harvest people's data.
However, the fact that the quiz went viral, and was taken by so many people, makes it a good cautionary tale for those who many not understand what they are giving away.
"Facebook is a haven for a large number of these companies and, frankly, hasn’t done enough to educate or warn users about the risks," wrote Mr Bischoff.
"The easiest way is to avoid online quizzes that require Facebook authentication altogether. Go to the apps section of your Facebook profile – where these data miners often reside – and remove anything you don’t 100 percent trust."
A study released this week claims that the average consumer values their personal data at £3,241. However, most advertisers pay less than a dollar to purchase it.