Does completing online surveys (e.g. make you vulnerable?

By minimalist | minimalist | 5 Apr 2021

If you are using Brave or Uphold, chances are you have encountered (not a referral link), which offers various ways to earn "free" crypto. This post concerns the online surveys you find on this and similar sites.

First of all, features an incredible diversity of surveys, many of which are actually fun. Some are part of academic research projects (as an academic myself, I appreciate the effort that goes into preparing surveys and getting them approved).

I completed around 40 surveys via the above website, mostly out of curiosity. I noticed that some ask for personal data that may be used to identify you, such as:

  • your email address (would never share)
  • your date of birth (would prefer an age range)
  • your full postcode (depending on where you live, your age + postcode may suffice to identify you)

Some ask for personal data that banks may use when verifying your identity (if provided at account opening), such as:

  • your favourite meal
  • your favourite music
  • your favourite childhood experience

Some ask for sensitive information that you may not wish to disclose if you can be identified by your other responses, such as:

  • Gender and race
  • State of health (e.g. mental)
  • Other personal circumstances (e.g. employment, income)

I realise that they need to ask questions to obtain valuable data. However, it would be prudent to establish a red line of what information you are willing to disclose. Even if the organisation that conducts the survey may have your best interest at heart, the data you provide may get leaked, and make you vulnerable (e.g. identify theft & fraud).

By the way, in academia, it is usually considered unethical to offer a prospective participant anything more than a token of appreciation to enter a survey. Often no rewards are offered. Although the "b" rewards that are offered by a given survey are relatively minor in value, they can easily accumulate to dozens of USD and beyond. And isn't it tempting to provide sensitive information, especially when not doing so may result in screen outs?

In my view, could do more to help prevent possible fraud. On their website, I could not find information about what to do if a survey appears to be malicious. I guess one can shoot an email to [email protected].

To conclude, if not already done, establish your red line.

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