March 12, 2013
“Liking” lots of people, places and things on Facebook leaves clues that can be used to accurately predict your race, age, IQ, sexuality, personality, substance use and political views, says new research. As USA Today reports, researchers at the University of Cambridge looked at the Likes of more than 58,000 Facebook users in the United States, collected between 2007 and 2012. Things the users clicked on as liking included photos, status updates from friends, Facebook pages of products, sports, musicians, books, restaurants and popular Web sites.
The Likes were fed into algorithms and the researchers created statistical models that were able to predict the personal details. Facebook spokesperson Fred Wolens calls the predictions “hardly surprising,” adding that “No matter the vehicle for information — a bumper sticker, yard sign, logos on clothing, or other data found online — it has already been proven that it is possible for social scientists to draw conclusions about personal attributes based on these characteristics.”
Rebecca Lieb, a digital media analyst at the Altimeter Group in New York, says “Data is being collected at every stage of our lives. If you’re using a credit card, you’re opening yourself up to as much data collection as if you’re using Facebook or searching online and getting cookies collected in your browser.” — Greg Beaubien