Clicking the "Like" button on Facebook may reveal surprising amount of details, including more private information such as sexuality, religious and political view, says a new study.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge along with the Microsoft Research Cambridge have conducted the study for more than 58,000 Facebook users in the U.S.
Facebook likes "can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender," the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said.
The researchers have analyzed the results by feeding Facebook likes into algorithms and comparing them to information from their profiles and personality tests. Later, researchers created statistical models that predict Facebook users personality by their likes.
The study found that the statistical models were 95 percent accurate for distinguishing between African-American or Caucasian Americans, and 85 percent accurate in categorizing Republicans from Democrats.
"Similar predictions could be made from all manner of digital data, with this kind of secondary 'inference' made with remarkable accuracy - statistically predicting sensitive information people might not want revealed," said Michael Kosinski, operations director at Cambridge University's Psychometric Center.
Following are the key predictions from the statistical models.
- 93 percent accurate in finding whether the user was male or female.
- 95 percent accurate whether the user was African American or Caucasian.
- 88 percent accurate whether a male user was homosexual or heterosexual.
- 85 percent accurate to identify whether Facebook user were Democrat or Republican.
- 82 percent whether they were Christian or Muslim.
- 75 percent on how old the user was.
Surprisingly, the study was also able to predict some interesting facts about the Facebook users by their "likes". The study revealed that the statistical models were 73 percent accurate on predicting whether the users smoke cigarettes, 60 percent accurate in predicting whether the users' parents are divorced and 40 percent of users IQ while giving 43 percent accurate information in user's personality.
"Although some of the Likes clearly relate to their predicted attribute, as in the case of No H8 Campaign and homosexuality, other pairs are more elusive; there is no obvious connection between Curly Fries and high intelligence," the study paper stated.
Researchers say that the study could help business to improve products as personalize web services by designing personalized ads depending on the users likes.
"They can be used and I'm sure they will be used for general improvement of the quality of our lives," said Kosinski. "It's just there are some risks that we have to take into consideration and protect ourselves from."
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