The Facebook Quiz Data Thief

If you are a Facebook user you have undoubtedly taken (or at least seen the results of) one of the infinite quizzes that are out there.  “Who is in your gang?” or “What kind of farm animal are you?”  You click through, answer a few questions, and then get a silly picture to share along with your results.  You post it on your Facebook feed and all your friends laugh and poke fun at you, and then some of them take the quiz for themselves, post the results, and so on.. and so on….

What you may not know (and Facebook won’t tell you) is that what you are really doing is installing an app on your phone or computer through Facebook.  That first question you are asked, something along the lines of “What Kind of Farm Animal are you would like to access your Public Profile” and then you click accept — you are giving Facebook and the app permission to download your personal data — and to keep doing it long after you have forgotten about what kind of farm animal you are.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s jump down the rabbit hole in one of these apps.  I had one of my friends post their results from one of these quizzes the other day so I will use it as an example.  The quiz says that it will predict what I will do in 2018.  I MUST KNOW — so here we go…

First, I clicked the survey….

Ah look – it wants to “receive” my public profile.  That’s just my personal information and maybe who all of my friends are depending on my privacy settings.  But I really want to know my prediction… ok…  CLICK.

Let’s pause here for a moment and reflect.  By giving this app permission you are giving away your personal data.  No one is stealing anything from you because you just freely gave it away. 

Ok, back to our story….

I then saw a pretty status bar saying it was “making my prediction”, but what it was really doing was accessing my profile information…

And BOOM here it is folks – my prediction for 2018:

(better not let the wife see this one…)

Oh.. and look at all of those ads around my picture.  I wonder why they do that?  (See “Don’t Take the Clickbait” blog post for more on this..)

I won’t share this result on my Facebook feed as I want to stay married, but let’s go see if this app is installed through my Facebook.. Follow along with me on your IPhone so you can see what’s going on…

First, I click the three horizontal bars at the bottom right hand corner of the phone to pull up the menu.

Then I scroll down until I see “Privacy Shortcuts” and click on that…


A new screen pulls up and at the very top it says “Privacy Checkup”.  I do that.

A pretty welcome screen with a blue dinosaur comes up and I click continue.  The first screen shows me the audience where my posts can be seen.  I have mine set at “Friends” and I would recommend you do the same.  No need to make all of your posts public for the world to see.

I click “Next” and then WOW – look at all of that personal data in my profile.  Facebook reminds me in their little message at the top that “your profile may include more than what’s here.”  MORE?  That’s already a lot.

Take minute to make sure NONE of these items are “Public” and limited only to your friends or only yourself.

I click “Next” and there appears a shameful list of all of the “stuff” I have done on Facebook including games, social media, and other apps.

Take a moment to scroll down and see what all is there.  You might be surprised.  I scroll down and then .. well looky there…  Godin World is an active app.

All I did was take a survey, and now I have an app installed through Facebook?  Why is that?  Well, Godin World (and others) don’t make those quizzes because they like quizzes.  They do it to make money.  And one way they make money is downloading your personal information and selling it to marketing companies and mailing lists.  As an active app, they can access your Facebook data whenever they need to for an update and you have no idea when that happens.  Many of my friends have had their Facebook accounts “spoofed” by someone setting up a fake profile and then sending friend requests to their existing friends.  These quizzes are one of the ways they get the data in order to accomplish this.

Oh, and don’t let the “Only me” box next to it with the big old grey lock fool you.  That just tells you if anyone else can see that app which is really worthless.

See a lot of those apps on your list?  Many of them you have probably forgotten about or don’t recognize at all.  I’d start deleting them now.  Click the “X” next to it and another box will pop up confirming that you want to delete the app.  Choose the option to delete the app and the data it has so you take it all out.  After you have done your housekeeping, click “Done” at the top right corner and pat yourself on the back.

I hope this helps you understand what is going on under the hood of those Facebook Quizzes a little more clearly.  Please feel free to comment below and share this post with your friends!  (I promise no app will be installed on your Facebook because of it…)  I would love to hear about how many apps you deleted when you did this.  Maybe I will have a contest for the highest number?


Categories: Smoke and Mirrors

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