You Are What You ‘Like’

New research from the University of Cambridge has shown that you may be revealing more than you think simply through your Facebook ‘likes’ – and the trouble is, even with the highest privacy settings they can still be visible!

The research studied the ‘like’ patterns of 58,000 voulenteers and was able to reveal to a high level of accuracy everything from sexuality to race, political views, IQ, drug use and other personality traits. The distinctive ‘like’ patterns claim to be up to 95% accurate, with 88% accuracy determining male sexuality, 95% accuracy determining race, 85% accuracy in determining political views and even 60% accuracy in determining if the users parents were divorced before they were 21.

Michal Kosinski, Operations Director at Cambridge University’s Psychometric Centre, said: “Given the variety of digital traces people leave behind, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to control.

“I am a great fan and active user of new amazing technologies, including Facebook. I appreciate automated book recommendations, or Facebook selecting the most relevant stories for my newsfeed. However, I can imagine situations in which the same data and technology is used to predict political views or sexual orientation, posing threats to freedom or even life. Just the possibility of this happening could deter people from using digital technologies and diminish trust between individuals and institutions – hampering technological and economic progress. Users need to be provided with transparency and control over their information.”

David Stillwell from Cambridge University added: “I have used Facebook since 2005, and I will continue to do so. But I might be more careful to use the privacy settings that Facebook provides.”

Of course, issues and concerns surrounding privacy of personal data is not a new controversy for Facebook, and we sympathise with the importance of keeping your personal data safe. Consumers rightly expect strong privacy protection from big companies such as Facebook, and hopefully research like this can continue to contribute to aiding the social networking giant’s on-going discussions about user privacy.