Facebook Can Reveal A Lot About You

 

A new British research report, conducted by the Psychometrics Center at the University of Cambridge in England, has revealed that with Facebook it has become very easy to learn a lot about its users — from their religious/political views and gender to their intelligence, race and sexual orientation — just by following their clicks.

 

1. How Does It Work?

Your clicks, which show that you “like” something on Facebook leave a virtual but lasting fingerprint of who you are, this information can be gathered and analyzed by marketers, credit agencies, companies, potential employers, politicians or the government, the researchers said. All the digital records including Facebook “likes” and Google browsing histories, are easily retrievable and can be used to create an accurate and revealing picture of a person. This data can predict with confidence that who you are without you telling anything at all. Clicking “like” on Facebook postings reveals users’ positive association with online content, such as Facebook pages of restaurants, products, photos, quotes, musicians, sports figures, actors, organizations and movies.

 

2. Casual Behavior Of Facebook User:

Most people are unaware of the fact that they are leaving behind a highly personal trail of information. Unlike carefully guarded data, such as medical history or financial information, Facebook “likes” seem casual and relatively unimportant to the user. What’s shocking is that sensitive inferences can be drawn by organizations from apparently non-sensitive data. Because sophisticated data-gathering operations can analyze just about any information someone shares and the biggest problem for consumers is that they don’t know how to think three or four steps ahead about how that information could potentially be used.

 

3. This Research Project:

This research project, tapped data from “myPersonality,” a popular Facebook app that provides users with online tests about their personality, intelligence, emotional stability and life satisfaction. Apps are easy-to-use web applications. About 58,000 users of myPersonality agreed to allow the researchers to have access to their Facebook profile and social network data, including tests they took using myPersonality. The researchers developed a mathematical model to compare the predictions, about the users that they made by assessing the participants’ “liking” behavior, with what the researchers knew about the participants from their psychological tests and profiles.

4. Results Of The Research:

Based just on Facebook “likes,” the research model predicted:

Gender, 93 percent of the time

Race, (white versus black) with 95 percent accuracy

Sexual orientation, (gay 88 percent of the time, and lesbian 75 percent of the time)

Drug use, with 65 percent accuracy

Political affiliation (Democrat vs. Republican), 85 percent of the time

Religion, (Christian vs. Muslim) with 82 percent accuracy

Relationship status, (single or with someone) 67 percent of the time

The authors of the study also found that this research model was almost as accurate as a short personality test would be in predicting the Facebook users’ degree of openness to new experiences.

 

5. Utility Of This Exercise:

The critical aspect of this research model was that it accumulated large amounts of apparently innocuous information, such as favorite music or television shows, love of animals or interest in friends’ photos, to pinpoint a participant’s distinct characteristics. Data brokers dig up browsing histories and social media sites to link a wide range of information to individuals, and sell their assessments to potential employers, politicians and others. People are out there who will pay to use this data; the accumulated ‘likes’ are something people can sell, And, unfortunately, nobody is sending you notice that somebody is using this information.

 

6. Caution:

There are various psychological assessment models, which can be used to process the data from millions of Facebook users worldwide. Although we enjoy using Facebook and other online resources, but consumers are urged to be careful. People should be aware that whatever they do online can be used to infer traits and personality aspects way beyond what they believe it can be used for. As a result of this research it is hoped that a discussion will be generated that leads policy makers and consumers to modify the technology so that users have control over the data they create.

 

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