Study Your Facebook Likes Reveal So Much About You

A recent study suggests that Facebook users may reveal more about themselves than what they intend to judging by the “Likes” they put. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have conducted their study using the Likes of 58,000 Facebook users and have concluded that, with an accuracy of 80 percent, a person’s Likes may reveal personal details such as sexual orientation, personality traits, political and religious beliefs, intelligence, and even substance use.

The researchers looked through users’ approval for a lot of things like photos, friends’ status updates, as well as pages for books, musicians, and sports. After removing random variables, comparing with user-provided demographic profiles, and other psychometric tests, the study correctly predicted sexual orientation 88 percent of the time, ethnicity 95 percent of the time, and 85 percent accurate in political leanings.

“This study demonstrates the degree to which relatively basic digital records of human behavior can be used to automatically and accurate estimate a wide range of personal attributes that people would typically assume to be private,” the researchers wrote in their study, which was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They also said that while Likes are similar to a person’s digital records like Web search queries, Web browsing histories, and credit card purchases, Likes are “currently publicly available by default.”

The study demonstrated an example about predicting Facebook users with high IQ. While liking interest pages such as Mozart or Science are pretty obvious, people with high IQ also tend to like Curly Fries and Morgan Freeman’s Voice.

The study also shows how Facebook brand pages have a tendency to be liked by people of certain demographics. People who like the Facebook page for Honda, for instance, tend to be non-smokers; while those who like Harley-Davidson are typically Caucasian male with low intelligence.

Researchers said that while the study of predicting attributes and preferences based on a person’s Likes on Facebook can be used to improve a wide range of brands, there is also a negative side to it, especially when such digital records are being analyzed without the person’s knowledge or consent.

“Commercial companies, governmental institutions, or even one’s Facebook friends could use software to infer attributes such as intelligence, sexual orientation, or political views that an individual may not have intended to share,” researchers concluded. “One can imagine situations in which such predictions, even if incorrect, could pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life.”

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PDF), via CNET
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