Facebook 'Likes', can reveal secrets -- including politics, IQ and drug use

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Facebook 'Likes'
Your Facebook 'Likes' could reveal more about you than you realise - including your sexuality, your IQ and even whether you abuse drugs - with up to 95% accuracy..

Distinctive patterns of 'Likes' correspond very strongly to different personality traits, say researchers at the University of Cambridge who studies the patterns of 58,000 volunteers' 'likes'.

Facebook users were warned that this information could be visible even on accounts with high privacy settings - possibly alerting employers to details users might wish to be private.

Users were more likely to have a higher IQ if they liked 'Mozart', 'The Godfather' and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.

People who liked 'I Like Being a Mom' and 'Harley Davidson' were more likely to have a lower IQ, the research found.

People in a relationship liked pages including 'Weight Watchers' and 'Scrapbooking' while singletons followed sports stars such as Usain Bolt and Maria Sharapova.

Heavy drinkers tend to like pages such as 'Tattoo Lovers' and 'Getting A Text That Says I Love You'.

The statistical research method proved 88 per cent accurate for determining male sexuality.

It was 95 per cent accurate for distinguishing race and 85 per cent accurate in determining political views.

Christians and Muslims were correctly identified in 82 per cent of cases, and accurate predictions were also achieved for relationship status and substance abuse.

Even personal details such as whether users’ parents separated before that person reached the age of 21 were accurately predicted to 60%.

The researchers were able to work out their conclusions without relying on obvious 'Likes'- for example only five per cent of gay men and women liked a Gay Marriage page.

The researchers said the observation of 'likes' alone was now believed to be as informative as a personality test.

But worryingly they warned all of the information needed for the telling analysis is readily available to the public - even if your profile adopts the highest privacy setting.

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."

The research was carried out at Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre in collaboration with Microsoft Research Cambridge and published yesterday (Mon) in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

Researchers said their findings could signal the beginning of a revolutionary method of psychological assessment.

Thore Graepel from Microsoft Research said he hoped the research would contribute to the on-going discussions about user privacy.

He said: "Consumers rightly expect strong privacy protection to be built into the products and services they use and this research may well serve as a reminder for consumers to take a careful approach to sharing information online, utilising privacy controls and never sharing content with unfamiliar parties."

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Facebook 'Likes', can reveal secrets -- including politics, IQ and drug use