Harmless fun or hidden trap? Online quizzes might be exposing your personal information

Online quizzes sound like fun and games, but answering them gives third-party companies access to your account and that puts all of your personal information at risk. (WWMT)

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are under fire after millions of Facebook users had their data exposed, but could you be putting your private information at risk without even knowing it?

“What's your IQ? How well do you know U.S history?” These Facebook quizzes sound like fun and games but answering them gives third-party companies access to your account and that puts all of your personal information at risk.

“A lot of these third-party apps, once you grant them access, they then have access to your personal information, ranging from your name to your birth date to your email,” said John Masterson, a marketing director with the Better Business Bureau of West Michigan.

The BBB issued a nationwide warning, telling consumers to be careful of what they answer on Facebook.

Once a third-party company has been granted access it collects your information until you revoke access.

“Those third-party apps, those are things that can range from dating apps to music apps to quizzes in this case and you've authorized it one time and it's sitting in the back collecting all this data,” Masterson said.

That data can mean a lot of money for companies.

“Consumer data is big business. So a lot of companies will have these quizzes, collect information from them and then use that information to target that advertising to sell products, push political agendas,” Masterson said.

“Then there's quizzes that ask seemingly innocent questions like “Which street did you grow up on?” The answers to questions like these are the same answers you use when resetting passwords for bank accounts and credit cards.

“Really simple questions that don't seem all that important at the time, if people are collecting these without your knowledge, they can then be used against you to break into accounts, reset passwords and wreak all kinds of havoc,” Masterson said.

Which is why consumers might have seen a new privacy protection warning pop up on Facebook. It's also why Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerburg found himself testifying before Congress.

For Facebook users, Masterson has a bottom line: “Any information you don't want shared or given out publicly, just don't list on Facebook."

Tips to avoid social media scams, from the BBB:

Be skeptical: Before you take a quiz, figure out who created it. Is it a brand you trust?
Adjust privacy settings: Review your social media account’s privacy settings and be strict about what information you share.
Remove personal details from your profile: Don’t share information like your phone number or home address on social media accounts.
Don't accept friend requests from people you don’t know.

Follow Walter Smith-Randolph on Facebook and on Twitter.

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