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Facebook (finally) blocks quizzes that mine your personal info

You’ve got some free time, so you decide to scroll through your Facebook News Feed. You see the usual “I’m on vacation and you’re not” posts, the cute baby videos along with the typical (and seemingly endless) political bickering. Then you come across something interesting.

By answering a few questions on a quiz, one of your Facebook friends finally found out which pop star they most share a personality with. Your friend got Beyonce. You see another friend who answered a few questions about themselves and at long last determined the true identity of their spirit animal, which turned out to be the Strawberry poison-dart frog. You realize you’ve gone all this time without knowing your spirit animal, so you decide you have to take the quiz right now.

Okay, maybe some of those quizzes are fun and great for mindlessly killing a few minutes, but there’s something else to consider. You’re answering a lot of potentially personal questions that could later be used against you, putting your privacy and online accounts in jeopardy. And in a surprising reversal of its usual antics, Facebook’s actually doing something about it, although we have to say, it’s a little late. We’ve been warning you for years about how Facebook and third-party developers use these “fun” tools to mine your personal information.

There’s a nonsensical quiz for everything

I’ve got a few questions for you:

  • Where were you born?
  • What’s your mom’s maiden name?
  • Who was your best friend in elementary school?
  • What was the name of your first pet?
  • What are the first nine digits of your Social Security number?
  • If you could be any kind of salad, which one would you be? (Caesar, obviously)

From those questions, I’ll be able to tell you which “Game of Thrones” characters’ sword you are. Your fingers are crossed for Longclaw, but wouldn’t you know it? The quiz says you’re Lion’s Tooth. Better luck next time.

Those quizzes can go from basic to way, way out there to the point of absurdity. And finding out which ice cream flavor you are could mean inadvertently exposing sensitive data, like account passwords and answers to security questions. You might be giving up even more of your information – such as private photos. Click or tap here to find out about a company that got away with that for years.

It could even end up more damaging than that. You might remember a little scandal involving Cambridge Analytica where its “personality test” dug into details of millions upon millions of Facebook accounts; things like your name, email address, where you live and the list of your friends. (PssT! Click or tap here for a refresher.)




That incident shined a light on the dangers of other third-party apps that could also be collecting your data. Click or tap here to learn more about those apps, with tips on how to deactivate them.

Finally, years later, Facebook says it’s taking steps to better protect your privacy by blocking some of those personality quizzes. That’s rich.

Facebook wants to protect your info ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Late last week, Facebook posted a blog to its developers site about some changes in the works. In the post, it said it’s in the process of updating its platform policies with new provisions regarding personality quizzes:

Additionally, our Facebook Platform Policies are being updated to include provisions that apps with minimal utility, such as personality quizzes, may not be permitted on the platform. The update also clarifies that apps may not ask for data that doesn’t enrich the in-app, user experience.

Minimal utility? Interesting choice of words. If you dig into those updated platform policies, you’ll see what Facebook means. Basically, apps that make predictions or provide assessments (on personality, personal attributes, character traits, behavioral tendencies, etc.) could end up being banned.

Maybe Facebook really is turning over a new leaf to become the defender of your privacy. Maybe it’s just tired of the constant, yet very warranted, criticism. Or perhaps it wants to corner the market on your data. Why share if they don’t have to?

If you’ve taken any of those quizzes, think back to the information you shared and if you’ve used any of those answers for some of your accounts.

Again, check which apps have permission to your Facebook profile and while you’re at it, take a look at other settings you might consider changing. The time might also be right to walk away from Facebook altogether, and protect whatever privacy you have left.

Besides, you don’t need a quiz to tell you which Avenger you are, or which soda flavor truly defines you. Deep down, I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out.

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