Cambridge, United Kingdom–Liking something on Facebook is tantamount to giving-up some very personal information about one’s self. New scientific evidence finds that when a person clicks the “Like” button on the most popular social network on the internet, he or she is leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.
A user’s likes forge a pattern with clear indications about many personal traits. The more times a user clicks thumbs up, the more well defined a whole host of proclivities become. In fact, when strung together, a user’s actions actually form a complete personality profile.
Data compiled in a study of 58,000 Facebook users revealed to researchers their participants IQ level, political affiliation, religious beliefs, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, as well as substance abuse. What was most surprising about the findings is the accuracy rate was consistently above 80 percent.
“This study demonstrates the degree to which relatively basic digital records of human behavior can be used to automatically and accurately estimate a wide range of personal attributes that people would typically assume to be private,” researchers said in the study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
By analyzing a user’s likes of photos, status updates, pages, musicians, movies, books and more, researchers could determine with astounding accuracy that same user’s sexual orientation 88 percent of the time, political leanings 85 percent and ethnicity 95 percent.
The researchers behind the study, conducted at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, stated that such information would certainly be useful to improving all sorts of products and services. The data would tell companies which direction to take in order to better market their wares.
However, the same researchers caution that the same conclusions could be unsettling to social users. Having such information might be a breach of confidence, as users aren’t intentionally sharing those private attributes.
The study employed a number of methodologies to reduce random variables, substantiating the rate of accuracy for predictions about the participants. While this information does leave a discernible path to follow for betting user interaction, it is also public record, “In contrast to these other sources of information, Facebook Likes are unusual in that they are currently publicly available by default,” said the researchers.