As you scroll your never-ending social media feed, you chance upon a personality test that piques your interest. “How much of a K-Pop fan are you?” A quiz entices you to find out. “What does your favorite video game character reveal about you?”, teases another. You go on answering a seemingly innocent set of questions, but what you may not know is that you’re actually exposing your private information.

Quizzes are often used for data mining

The things we enjoy on the Internet for free, like VPNs, social networks, and search engines, come with a cost. The companies behind these services collect your personal data to understand your preferences and online behavior and then generate revenue through personalized or targeted advertising. Some companies also sell or share user data (sometimes even by mistake) to third-party companies. Heck, even your car can track you and sell your data.

In the same way, the online quizzes and personality tests that seem like harmless fun may actually be tools for data mining. Your answers may expose your personal preferences to the quiz creator, and with enough data gathered they can identify patterns and trends about you. Together with your name, email address and other information, the quiz creator can generate a profile about you that they can sell for profit.

How, you ask, do companies benefit from your personal data? We’ve already covered advertising, for starters. Some of the more responsible companies anonymize your data and aggregate it with data from the rest of their user base for relatively reasonable purposes, such as improving their products and services, enhancing user experience, and forming insights into market trends.

And then there are abusive companies that misuse or exploit personal data in harmful ways. Some companies to which you willingly shared your personal information might share or sell it to third parties without your permission or knowledge, often for purposes you never agreed to. Remember the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal?

Some apps have also faced accusations of being spyware or having links to governments. TikTok, for example, have been banned in multiple countries for supposedly collecting and sharing user data with the Chinese government, though the app’s parent company ByteDance has repeatedly denied these allegations.

Aside from the usual quizzes and personality tests, there are now more things to be wary of. Another recent popular trend is transforming people into K-pop idols and the 90s AI Yearbook retro-themed photos.


How to spot quizzes and personality tests that steal your data

Understanding how to spot quizzes and social media games that may be harvesting your personal information can safeguard your privacy. Look out for these telltale signs:

1. Unknown source

Check the source or the publisher of the quiz. Established and reputable websites or platforms are generally safer, whereas suspicious-looking domains hosting quizzes are potentially risky. Just like how you should protect yourself from phishing, be careful of quizzes and tests that are shared through unsolicited links, emails, or social media messages.

2. Unnecessary permissions and data requests

Exercise caution when an online quiz or personality test requests permissions and personal data that seem excessive or unrelated to the quiz’s purpose. A legitimate quiz would not ask you to grant it permission to access your contact lists and personal files, for example. If the quiz does ask for more information, claiming that it is needed to deliver optimal results, take some time to read the platform’s terms of use and privacy policy, which leads us to the next point.

3. Lack of privacy policies and terms of use

Entertainment websites and social media platforms that offer personality tests and other quizzes, if they have any respect for their users and want to build trust with them, should be transparent with how they gather, use, store, and protect your data through their privacy policy and terms of use. The lack of these documents can be a warning sign that the quiz creators are up to something. Know your right to privacy.

4. Invasive questions

If the questions appear to be designed to collect personal information beyond what’s necessary for the stated purpose of the quiz, it could be an indication that the quiz is more interested in gathering your data than providing entertainment or insights. Also, watch out for questions that are commonly used as security questions; hackers can use your answers in password recovery attempts to hijack your account. Exercise due diligence and avoid submitting personal details like your full name, address, and phone number.

How to deal with suspicious quizzes and social media games

Remember, your privacy is worth more than the temporary fun and generic insights these quizzes and games offer. To avoid the risk of data exposure, it’s best not to participate in these quizzes altogether, especially when they ask for personal details. Results of personality tests are in most cases purely hokum and have no scientific basis. So, what’s the point?

On social media platforms, you can report suspicious quizzes or games. Additionally, consider blocking accounts or sources that frequently share such content. Seek help from the authorities if you become a victim of scams.

How to take these tests without risking your privacy

Let’s say you insist on taking these quizzes and games despite the security risk, at the very least you should take precautions to mitigate any potential damage to your personal and digital security.

You can, for example, use a disposable email if you’re required to submit one, use a pseudonym instead of your real name, and visit the website through a VPN. No matter what you do, always remember to keep yourself safe online.

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