How much do I know about you?

On: September 29, 2009
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About Marta Colpani
I was born in Piacenza, a little city in the North of Italy. I grew up with five brothers and sisters and various adopted and hosted children who temporary lived with my family. In 2005 I moved on my own to Pisa to study Film, Music and Theater and later (2006) I moved to Haarlem to study Information Science in Amsterdam. I graduated in August 2009 and then started the post-graduated program New Media, at the same university (UvA). Simultaneously I'm studying fine arts at the Rietveld Academy and running a stage at Technische Unie in the Product information & eBusiness department.

Website is the sequel of an experiment I started last week. I was curious how can you use Facebook quizzes for research and marketing purposes. My self made Facebook Quiz has not become very successful. After about a week only 17 people took the Quiz. I guess that my promotion techniques can be improved. A lot. Although, I finally found a way to see the result of the Quiz, through the application I used to create the Quiz. I can see the following information, that could be very useful to my research:

1. Results of the Quiz

2. Which users took the Quiz (name and photo)

3. Insights in the usage

A very user-friendly stats page show me that 50% of the 17 people who took the quiz are nerds, 22% are dorks and 28% are geeks. This result is not going to make me wiser in any way, but the experience itself learns me something. First of all, as I said already, that I can really improve my marketing skills and spread this quiz a lot better. The first thing I will do is to search for the word “nerd” on Facebook and post this quiz to all the fans pages and groups about the subject. And next time I will not ask people to take the quiz because it is part of a research. Instead I will take the quiz every day and post my result on the wall, where everyone can see it.

Facebook quiz application

Another thing that I pretty much regret is that I could have used the application for my bachelor thesis. I think that I could have got a much higher response rate and data analysis could have been much easier and much more fun. I personally find Facebook Quizzes very useful for research. Instead of creating a mailing list and sending interviews around, knowing you will get a very low response and risking to be blocked as spammer (Facebook doesn’t allow spam to more then 15 users who are not in your contact list), you can just create a Quiz and spread it on Facebook. That, of course, if your “population” or a significant part of it is active on Facebook. There are then two ways of researching what you want to know: you can either be very clear about the goal and content of the Quiz, or you can hide significant hints in the Quiz, making it look as funny as useless but at the same time gathering information about users that is relevant to your research.

Let me be clear, I don’t think Facebook Quizzes is evil. Instead, I think Facebook can be a mine of useful information for important research projects. I would be very happy myself if the information I decide to share can bring some improvement on many fields. Even if it is used to sell me stuff, I mean, I prefer to have relevant adds appearing on my Facebook page or wherever, instead of totally irrelevant suggestions about products I would never want to buy. If companies wants to know more about their customers and sell them more, my best. Also, I like social research and I find it very interesting to read. I have no problems being part of it.

There are two things that bother me though. First of all, not many of us are aware of giving away very precious information. We all should know how it works to be able to build some kind of defensive barrier, or at least some information filter that can help us understand how companies use our data to send us advertising emails or suggest what to buy.  Second of all, I think that should do MORE to protect users profiles. Making this quiz I finally realized what this well known quiz warning means: “Allowing How blonde are you? access will let it access your Profile information, photos, your friends’ info and other content that it requires to work.”

Facebook warning private information

The thing I didn’t expect is that I can see everything about the users who took the Quiz, even if they are not my contacts. I’m not really interested of course, despite the me-stalker that make me like Facebook so much,  so I just tried clicking on a couple of them only to be sure that it was really happening, because I could not believe it. To go a step further, I tried to click on contacts of people I didn’t know and took my Quiz, and like magic I was able to see all their information (Wall, Info, Photos, etc..). The unbelievable part still has to come: it goes on through a larger number of layers! So, the contacts of a contact of a contact of an unknown user is still visible with all his private information to you, quiz creator. What is even the relevance of that information to me? Facebook Quizzes Applications might not allow users to see others’ information through quizzes results and still be useful! Instead, maybe, Facebook could provide some general information about age and gender of participants and offer some kind of statistic software that helps you interpret the results of the quiz, but I don’t think you need to see party pictures and wall messages, Farm score and horoscope of all users who took the quiz, their contacts and the contacts of their contacts, am I wrong?

Fortunately, there seem to be some protection tool. Some of the users who took the quiz have protected their information. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is also active on Facebook to make people aware of this lack of protection and to help them protect their own profile. To do this, ACLU has created a Facebook Quiz that shows some examples of what application developers can see about you and your contacts when you allow them to access your profile information. So if my post did not scare you enough please take the ACLU Quiz. And if you believe that they have a point you can sign their petition here.

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