Think of all the pages you've "liked" on Facebook. Perhaps a favorite restaurant, a museum, a sports team. Perhaps a favorite magazine. How much do you think those errant clicks -- which are linked publicly with your profile no matter how embarrassed you are to be a fan of Justin Bieber -- betray about your personal demographics and preferences?
Way more than you want them to, according to a study from the University of Cambridge's Psychometrics Centre and Microsoft Research Cambridge. In a study published online in PNAS Monday, the researchers say automatic analysis of Facebook Likes can accurately predict a user's race, age, IQ, sexuality, personality and political views. Though the Facebook app myPersonality, which study author David Stillwell has a financial stake in, the researchers gathered information from more than 58,000 Facebook users.
That a Facebook fans of "Barack Obama" might be Democrats or people who liked the "No H8" campaign were more likely to be gay seems obvious, but other correlations were far less intuitive. "Curly Fries" and "Thunderstorms" seem to be surprisingly linked with a high IQ, while "That Spider is More Scared Than U" happens to draw a non-smoking fan base. Predictors of male heterosexuality include "Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps." An appreciation of "Hello Kitty" tended to be associated with people who were more open and less emotionally stable.
After creating a statistical model for Facebook likes, the researchers could differentiate between an African-American and white American user with 95 percent accuracy, a Republican from a Democrat with 85 percent accuracy, and guess your relationship status with a 65 percent accuracy. I suppose my online adoration of TSwift, "Crying naked in the bathroom listening to Adele" and "Hot Dog Eating Contests" really does gives me away as a single lady?
Even more obscure information like whether or not your parents separated before you were 21 years old could be culled from your Facebook likes with enough accuracy (60 percent) to prove interesting to advertisers, the authors write:
They could even make guesses as to personality traits like intelligence, emotional stability and openness with a fair degree of accuracy, according to the University of Cambridge's
"Watch what you like" seems to be the theme here. The researchers warn:
On the bright side, liking "Science" is a good predictor for a high IQ. We can only imagine the same goes for PopSci.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.