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‘Fun’ quizzes on Facebook exist to get your information

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Q: Are those Facebook Quiz posts that I see all the time safe to use or a scam?

We’ve all seen them: What does your name truly mean? What nationality do you look like? When and who will you marry?

While very few of them are actual scams, you’ll have to decide whether they are safe or not for yourself.

By now, all Facebook users should understand that they are using a social networking tool that’s free of financial cost because we are all paying with the information we post and interact with: We are the product, not the customer.

Facebook’s ability to monetize our posts, pictures, likes and comments with advertisers is what has taken a stock that traded below $18 less than four years ago to over $118 in the past few months.

The quizzes, friend comparisons and personality tests that you see from Facebook’s many advertisers are from companies primarily in the data-gathering business.

How you’re paying

We’re in the era of big data and anyone that participates in these fun posts is providing incredibly valuable data about themselves and often times, their friends, to powerful data mining companies.

As soon as you give permission for one of these cute apps to access your profile information, they instantly grab as much information as they can get away with because they know very few people pay much attention to permissions or privacy policies.

Your profile data — along with lots of other digital footprints we all leave across the Internet — is what is feeding a multi-billion dollar digital tracking industry.

Who’s got your data?

Many of these companies are based in other countries and have very loosely-worded privacy policies that essentially say that they won’t sell your information to third parties, but they can if they choose to in the future with wording like this: “We do not share your personal information with third parties unless we have received your permission to do so, or given you notice thereof (such as by telling you about it in this privacy policy)”.

The reality is you have no idea and no control over how they use your highly-personal data once they’ve gathered it.

Could your advertising data someday fall into the hands of someone with nefarious intent? It’s certainly a possibility.

Removing permissions

If you’ve ever participated in any of these quizzes, you can remove the permissions that you gave by going to Settings->Apps in Facebook and clicking the “X” to the right of each listed app.

Unfortunately, even if you remove the permissions from your profile, you cannot revoke the information that they’ve already gathered.

It’s not just your info

Some people may shrug it off as no big deal, but even if you are perfectly comfortable with providing your birthday, age, hometown and current city, email address, everything you’ve ever posted, all of your photos or any photos you’ve been tagged in or any other profile information that you’ve filled out, you’re usually allowing them to gather various info from your entire network of friends as well.

If you’re comfortable with all of this, by all means, jump in and learn which magical creature you are or what your face reveals about you.

I’ll take a pass.

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