Sometimes, it seems, you cannot go through a day without being offered a poll to complete. Whether you are walking through town, minding your business, surfing the web or keeping up to date on Twitter, someone, somewhere, would love you to cast your vote.
The majority of these polls that you see are just for fun, voting on ridiculous things and then having a chuckle when you see how other people voted.
Others are for topics you couldn’t care less about and can safely be ignored whilst others may be a compulsory part of your working day.
Others will be offered up by friends and contacts via social networking sites and you may or may not feel compelled to take part in them.
For the most part, they ask questions ranging from the unimportant (who is your favourite movie star) through to the extremely useful (such as who should win a security bloggers award) and there is no real harm in answering them, besides the small amount of time that you have to give up.
But in a few instances the polls can pose some more serious questions.
The questions will be somewhat more probing, looking to find out something about you and why you visit a certain site or perform a certain type of action. Whoever set the poll up wants to understand who you are, where you are and how you think.
Sometimes some of the sneakier sites on the web will even make completion of the poll mandatory in order to proceed onto your ultimate aim of, say, reading a particular news story. Such polls may not demand your name and address but they do drift roughly into areas of personally identifiable information.
Other polls can be far more obtrusive though and i’m sure you’ve seen a few of them. If you, for example, use Facebook, then you may have seen polls that ask for a lot of personal information, or permission to access the same from your profile. If you are not a privacy conscious person (and I’d have to question why not in this, the surveillance age), or you have divulged too much on your profile page, then this can be a problem.
Many people share information on social sites that they really shouldn’t – its in our DNA – but they feel reasonably safe because they think only their friends can see it. That isn’t true though and there are many polls, apps and companies that may appear to be affiliated with Facebook (or whoever), even though they are most certainly not, or even trying to appear that way.
If you share information you need to be alert. Even if you are divulging personal information within an environment in which you feel safe, you need to be certain that the audience is the one you expect. I myself have a few friends who have completed polls on Facebook only to later discover that they actually handed all that info to a third party unawares.
As for what a third party may do with your personal information, I’ll leave you to think about it, but lets just say that online polls can pose both security and privacy issues.
When filling in polls make sure you know where you are, what information you are sharing, who you are sharing that data with and, most importantly, what the recipient is going to do with that information.
And if this article has left you feeling like you need to complete an online poll right now then I can tell you that you can find a legitimate one right here, though I’ll leave you to decide who to vote for ;-)