Creepy Quora erodes users’ privacy, reveals what you have read

QuoraThe Quora website launched two years ago, collating questions-and-answers on a variety of topics and receiving favourable write-ups in the media.

It’s possible that you were one of the early sign-ups to the service, investigating whether you would find it useful, and don’t visit the site much very often. Or you could be one of the die-hard Quora lovers who still gets value out of the site’s community.

Question on Quora

But there’s something that all Quora users should know.

Sign up to our free newsletter.
Security news, advice, and tips.

Earlier this month, Quora made a decision which changes your privacy on the site. And they did it without asking your permission first.

They decided to introduce “Views” – functionality which creepily reveals to others the articles you have been reading.

Views on a Quora article

In a trick presumably learnt from a chorus of other uncaring social networking sites, Quora has left it up to the user to turn off the “Views” feature (opt-out) rather than the much more privacy-friendly alternative of asking users to opt-in if they really want others to see what articles they have read.

As we’ve said many times before – if a feature really is a huge benefit to the user, why do websites have so little confidence that they can encourage users to opt-in rather than thinking it’s alright to reduce privacy without asking first?

Now, you may think – why would I care if people can see what questions I have read on Quora?

Well, here’s a few examples of the kind of things you could have read:

Still comfortable?

Sandra Liu Huang, a product manager at Quora, tried to justify why the site enabled the “Views” feature by default in a CNET interview:

"It will help writers get feedback to improve the content they write. If it were an opt-in product it wouldn't be as useful to writers because not enough people may go turn it on. It will improve the content and help readers discover useful and interesting content more quickly."

If you don’t like the idea of other people seeing what you are reading you have two options:

1) You can change your Quora account settings, by visiting Profile/Settings/Views and choosing “No”. (This is the option that Quora enabled without asking your permission)

Quora settings

2) Another option, of course, is to delete your account. Quora helpfully provides a Q&A about how to delete your Quora account.

At the time of writing, over 1800 people have read the deletion article.

1800+ users have viewed how to delete their Quora account

What do you think about this new feature of Quora?

Was there a better way for Quora to introduce the technology?

Should people be concerned that it was turned on by default, or are we living in the dark ages by being worried about this kind of thing?

Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

What do you think? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.