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Facebook Knows if You're Gay, Use Drugs, or Are a Republican

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) writes | about a year and a half ago

Facebook 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Not that there's anything wrong with that — as the Guardian reports that Facebook users are unwittingly revealing their sexual orientation, drug use and political beliefs – using only public "like" updates, according to a study of 58,000 Facebook users in the US that found that sensitive personal characteristics about people can be accurately inferred from information in the public domain. Researchers were able to accurately infer a Facebook user's race, IQ, sexuality, substance use, personality or political views using only a record of the subjects and items they had "liked" (PDF) on Facebook – even if users had chosen not to reveal that information. "It is good that people's behaviour is predictable because it means Facebook can suggest very good stories on your news feed," says Michal Kosinski, ""But what is shocking is that you can use the same data to predict your political views or your sexual orientation. This is something most people don't realise you can do." For example, researchers were able to predict whether men were homosexual with 88% accuracy by their likes of Facebook pages such as "Human Rights Campaign" and "Wicked the Musical" – even if those users had not explicitly shared their sexuality on the site. According to the study other personality traits linked to predictive likes include for High IQ — "The Godfather," "Lord of the Rings," "The Daily Show"; for Low IQ — "Harley Davidson," "I Love Being A Mom," "Tyler Perry"; and for male heterosexuality — "Wu Tang Clan," "Shaq," and "Being Confused after Waking Up from Naps." Facebook’s default privacy settings mean that your “likes” are public to anyone and Facebook’s own algorithms already use these likes to dictate what stories end up in users’ news feeds, while advertisers can access them to determine which are the most effective ads to show you as you browse."

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Saw this earlier (1)

cshark (673578) | about a year and a half ago | (#43143135)

It really seems like it's playing on cultural stereotypes. What if I happened to be a straight college professor who like Harley Davidsons like Wicked, and happened to like both Liberal and Conservative causes. Also, how is the Daily Show in any way analogous to how smart you are? John Stewart may be funny, but he's kind of an establishment guy. What happens if I'm not crazy about the establishment? What if I prefer Colbert? Hm? What happens if I spent three years being paid to like everything that came across my personal profile (it happens)? Maybe if you're doing a long term trend, based on something other than pre-conceived ideas about who likes what, but I don't think the study goes that deep, and I would be curious to see if it holds up to peer review.

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