Those social media quizzes you take — they can undermine your data privacy and data security

If you’ve taken a quiz or survey on Facebook, or other social media platforms, chances are your privacy has been compromised — and that of everyone you are connected with on that platform.

It’s impossible to sufficiently underscore the importance of data security and data privacy. The two could perhaps be viewed as two sides of the same coin called “your unique data”. For a coin to be a functional unit of currency, both sides must be unsullied. Similarly, for “your unique data” to be functional, you want it’s privacy and security unsullied.

Data security includes ensuring physical security of data — for example, safely stored backups of data — as well as encrypting the data electronically. One could view this in the following manner: let’s say you have expensive objects that are also flammable, and members of your household know about them; if you place the objects in a fireproof box, they will be safe from flames. However, if a miscreant got his hands on the box he could very easily open it and take off with the contents of the box. If, on the other hand, the box was locked and you alone had the combination to it, then not only would the contents be safe from a fire, they’d be safe from miscreants, and your expensive object would be securely in your possession. By putting your valuable object in a fireproof box with a lock, you’ve ensured the security of said valuable object. That’s the equivalent of data security. Data privacy is different from data security — it’s all about who has access to particular data, and appropriate use of any data you share. To elaborate on the fireproof box example, if a member of your household publicized the contents of your fireproof box, even if the contents are still securely in the locked box, the details of the contents are no longer private. Data privacy and data security therefore, while distinct, are inextricably linked.

So, about those quizzes

The reality is that anyone with a Facebook account can introduce a quiz into the Facebook world. As of the first quarter of 2017, Facebook had 1.94 billion monthly active users.

World map with countries colored according to the most popular social networking site. For almost all countries, this is Facebook, with the exemptions of China (QZone), Japan (Twitter), Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan (all VKontakte), Kyrgyzstan (Odnoklassniki) and Iran (Facenama). The data source is Alexa’s Top 500 sites in each country as of 2015–11–08, which provides data for 118 countries/territories. (courtesy Wikipedia)

The reality also is, that many of the quizzes take you out of the Facebook world to other sites, some of which have the ability to — scrape your personal data from Facebook; place cookies on your device so that you are now a beacon for incursions from all kinds of other websites; scrape personal information from your device; and also have the capacity to use your information to influence politics.

On June 24, 2017, Sir Tim Berners-Lee will formally receive the 2016 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) A.M. Turing Award. Berners-Lee was cited for inventing the World Wide Web and the fundamental protocols and algorithms for the web. “The ACM Turing Award, often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Computing,” carries a $1 million prize, with financial support provided by Google, Inc. It is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing.

Marking 28 years since the time he submitted his original proposal for the worldwide web, on March 11, 2017 Tim Berners-Lee wrote an article in The Guardian. In the article, he expressed his concerns about three new trends in the worldwide web: loss of control of personal data; ease with which misinformation spreads on the web; and political advertising. He went on to elaborate why these trends are concerning, and ended with saying: “I may have invented the web, but all of you have helped to create what it is today…..It has taken all of us to build the web we have, and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want — for everyone.

Data security and data privacy have the capacity to influence our environment — not just the digital environment, but the physical environment. In the current political climate we find ourselves in, one doesn’t need to extrapolate too much to see how quickly the world could deteriorate if we don’t take data privacy and security more seriously. To it’s credit, the European Union approved and adopted a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) program in April 2016, to be enforced on May 25, 2018. “The GDPR not only applies to organisations located within the EU but it will also apply to organisations located outside of the EU if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behaviour of, EU data subjects. It applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of data subjects residing in the European Union, regardless of the company’s location.” The GDPR requires that the organizations implement a process whereby they transform personal data in such a way that the resulting data cannot be tied back to a specific subject without additional information. The processes for data protection that will be developed by these organizations will hopefully be applied even outside the EU, making for a more secure exchange of zeroes and ones.

Last year, the Better Business Bureau warned consumers about IQ tests and quizzes on social media because of the the potential for a breach in your electronic privacy, and also possibility of getting malware on your devices; however, there was no reduction in complaints on personal data security breaches. Although the GDPR requirements could improve data safety, there is no substitute for being a vigilant consumer of electronic resources.

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