Statisticians and market researchers will soon be able to tell a person’s sexual orientation, political affinity, level of substance abuse, IQ, race and ethnicity and personality type by merely collating information from his/her Facebook Likes.
A study by researchers from the University of Cambridge revealed that intimate personal characteristics by Facebook members can be predicted through a statistical analysis of their “likes” on Facebook. The findings showed that in a group of 58,000 willing Facebook users, they were able to predict their male sexuality with an accuracy rate of 88 percent, race with 95 percent and political affinity with 85 percent.
The researchers at Cambridge’s Psychometrics Center together with Microsoft Research Cambridge were able to determine such profiles by using statistics in studying the pages and statuses liked by the volunteers.
According to Michael Kosinsksi, who led the team of researchers at the University of Cambridge, human activities are now recorded by digital services and devices. Because of the growing dependency of society on technology, behaviors can now be easily analyzed and recorded. He said that such phenomenon also led to the emergence of a number of new services like personalized search engines, recommender systems and targeted online marketing.
Privacy At Risk
Kosinsksi said that because of the risk that this digital world puts on the privacy of each Internet user, people should need to distinguish between the data actually recorded and the data predicted by statistics. He added that although there are people who choose not to reveal personal information about themselves, such information can still be predicted by statistics based on what they did choose to reveal.
Paul Kurnit, a clinical professor of marketing at Pace University, said that this research will increase the interest of marketers and the Facebook management. Such profiling of people can be used to target a specific audience for a brand or product. He said that many people don’t realize just how much information they reveal in social media.
He added that marketers can exploit the findings of this research for income. Once the profiles of Facebook users become available to companies, it will be easier for them to find out the group they should be targeting.
Kurnit revealed that unfortunately, the problem of protecting yourself from being used by marketers still fall on your shoulders. If you don’t reveal personal information that might lead the marketers to you, then there should be no problem. However, if you are a heavy Internet user who spends hours updating statuses, posting pictures and liking Facebook pages, then there is a big chance that your activities are attracting companies that sell products relating to your searches, Facebook Likes and posts.
The heavy burden of protecting one’s identity on the Internet is something that we should all be aware of. Anyone can be a victim of fraud in this digital age. Anyone can also be targeted by marketing companies that have already handpicked you from the profiles made available to them by your Facebook Likes. If that doesn’t sound creepy enough, I don’t know what else is.