The use of social networks has become widespread nowadays and people all over the globe are using one social network or another. However, no social network is as popular as Facebook. It is being used by people all around the world and is therefore, also a target of privacy scandals and similar issues.
Some new information has come to light about this social network. Being either the Facebook fans of certain pages or friends of others, people ‘like’ posts, comments and statuses on Facebook, but they are unaware that these ‘likes’ can reveal secrets of their intimate life to others. Just by having a look at a user’s likes, researchers were able to identify the said user’s sexuality, IQ, substance use, race and political views as well.
The University of Cambridge undertook a study that involved around 58,000 US Facebook users. These users enabled access to their ‘likes’, psychometric testing results and demographic profiles. Permission for analyzing the data was obtained and the information was given through the application myPersonality.
‘Statistical models’ were created by experts that could be used for predicting the personal details of the users, but only by using their Facebook ‘likes’. According to the results, the models turned out to be 95% accurate when differentiating Caucasian American from African American, 88% reliable for figuring out the sexuality of males and 85% correct in distinguishing a Democrat from a Republican. The study, which was published in the PNA journal shows that in 82% of the cases, the Muslims and Christians were correctly classified and 65% to 73% prediction accuracy could be obtained for substance abuse and relationship status.
In a statement made by the spokesman of the research team, it was explained that some users clicked ‘likes’ that revealed their attributes explicitly. For instance, gay individuals obviously chose to ‘like’ gay marriages. Inference was the base used for making the predictions, which means that incisive personal profiles of individuals were formulated by making use of huge amounts of highly popular, but less information ‘likes’ such as TV shows and music. The spokesman also said that the information could be very valuable to advertisers because even opaque details regarding family problems and issues were predicted accurately about 60% of the time.
It was further asserted that there were some ‘likes’ that were randomly linked to a personal attribute even though it seemed incongruous. As a whole, the information gleaned from the ‘likes’ could be used for forming personality portraits and identifying personal attributes of individuals quite easily. The researchers also state that psychological assessment can also be carried out in this manner and eliminates the need of costly assessment centers. However, they have also warned that it can prove to be threat to the privacy of individuals. The information can be used by companies, government and even other users.