The hidden secrets of online quizzes

You can have a ball taking online quizzes on Facebook and other sites, but here are some things you should know before you do

The Trust Factor

Ultimately, deciding whether you should take an online quiz comes down to a question of trust: Are you comfortable putting your information--personal or financial--into the owner's hands? Remember, even if you don't directly input data, it can be passed along. Such is the case with Facebook, where just opening an application automatically grants its developer access to your entire profile. And don't assume that the developer isn't going to use the information within.

"The very intimate and detailed nature of the information featured on Facebook profiles makes such a database very valuable to marketers," says Guillaume Lovet, a senior manager with security company Fortinet.

Finally, bear in mind that the quizzes' results may not even mean much. In the case of online IQ tests, for instance, many of the exams are about as valid as my excuse for missing mah-jongg night at the clubhouse.

"These things are simply not sophisticated," says Dr. Martin Eaton, a licensed clinical psychologist and adjunct professor at the University of Southern California. "Calling them intelligence tests would be a misnomer."

The test that declared me a genius, I can only assume, was a rare exception.

Editor's Note: This article was corrected to reflect the following information: RealAge does not sell, rent, or trade members' personal data. But the company will allow partners to sponsor messages that Real Age sends to its members who share certain characteristics.

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