Millions of Facebook users give up privacy to play words quiz

Over 17 million people have willingly (and in most cases unthinkingly) handed over huge amounts of their personal data to a company they know very little about in exchange for a graphic of their most-used words in status updates.

I know, right? It is, as Comparitech pointed out, essentially a privacy nightmare, but Facebook users can’t seem to get enough of it at the moment.

The quiz app, by Vonvon.me, works out what your most used words were in status updates this year, and presents them as a word cloud which you are then encouraged to share on your timeline. I’ve seen plenty on mine, and I bet you have too.

So far so straightforward – but how does the quiz app get that information? Yep, by mining the information you have posted/logged with the site.

According to Comparitech, that includes disclosing your:

  • 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

But it gets worse than that. The terms and conditions (that you have to sign up to when you authorise it to access your Facebook account, but which most people likely never read fully), allow Vonvon.me, among other things, to keep using non-identifying data for as long as they want, store it where they want, and sell it on to any third parties.

And all you got in return was a word cloud. Vonvon is not unusual in this, we’ve talked before about how most apps ask for far more permissions than they actually need to operate, and this is just one that’s gone viral.

But, as ever, it always pays to take care about what and who you hand your data over to. By all means take part in the Facebook quizzes and the like – but just take care about what they’re asking for in return.

Because your personal data is you, it has value and companies such as digi.me are working on ways that you can share it, on your own terms, for tangible benefits. Basically, it’s worth a lot more to you than a word cloud, so protect it!

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