Over 16 million people have agreed to give up almost every private detail about themselves to a company they likely know nothing about just to play a quiz.
Lately, you’ve probably seen a couple of your Facebook friends post the results of a quiz app that figures out your most-used words in statuses. Or maybe you posted it yourself. It looks something like this:
The “quiz,” created by a company called Vonvon.me, has risen to over 16 million shares in a matter of days. It’s been written about in the Independent, Cosmopolitan, and EliteDaily. Sounds fun, right?
Wrong. That’s over 16 million people who agreed to give up almost every private detail about themselves to a company they likely know nothing about.
“ooo! if i click here and auth in with facebook it’ll scan my entire year of posts, store the data and tell my most used words. sign me up!”
— Saved You A Click (@SavedYouAClick) November 19, 2015
The app, like many Facebook quiz apps, is a privacy nightmare. Here’s a list of the info quiz players have to disclose to Vonvon.me:
- Name, profile picture, age, sex, birthday, and other public info
- Entire friend list
- Everything you’ve ever posted on your timeline
- All of your photos and photos you’re tagged in
- Education history
- Hometown and current city
- Everything you’ve ever liked
- IP address
- Info about the device you’re using including browser and language
Your information could be stored anywhere in the world, including countries without strong privacy laws. A Whois search reveals Vonvon.me was registered in South Korea, but it operates under several languages including English, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Korean:
Vonvon processes Personal Information on its servers in many countries around the world. Such information may be stored on any of our servers, at any location.
Yes, it actually says that. Worst of all, Vonvon skirts responsibility after it has sold your data to third parties, who can do whatever the hell they want with it:
Companies who you have never met can now access your entire Facebook profile–friends, photos, statuses and all–and use them in ways you never directly agreed to. By the way, if you edit the permissions before authenticating the app with Facebook, Vonvon won’t allow you to play the quiz. Edit: You can remove all permissions except your public profile and Facebook timeline posts, and still play the quiz. Most people that play probably won’t bother, though.
We’ve singled out Vonvon because it recently went viral, but it’s far from the only shady data dealer to masquerade behind a viral quiz mill. Facebook is a haven for a large number of these companies and, frankly, hasn’t done enough to educate or warn users about the risks. Social Sweethearts, a similar company based in Germany, creates quiz apps that are so bold as to collect your email address. Hope you like spam, suckers!
So how can you protect yourself? The easiest way is to avoid online quizzes that require Facebook authentication altogether. Go to the apps section of your Facebook profile–where these data miners often reside–and remove anything you don’t 100 percent trust. Many of them can even hijack your Facebook and post on your behalf. Stick to quizzes that just let you share the results without logging in with your Facebook account, such as the ones on Buzzfeed.