Facebook knows your secrets: ‘Likes’ reveal users’ personality

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Stephen Lam/Getty Images/AFP

Facebook’s ‘like’ button can reveal more than you realize, a new study has showed. By liking posts and links, you may be revealing personal secrets, like your sexuality or religious and political views. The findings have raised privacy concerns.

A study by the National Academy of Sciences examined 58,000 Facebook users in the US, who volunteered their likes, demographic profiles and psychometric test results. Researchers managed to draw “surprisingly accurate” findings about a given user’s race, IQ, sexuality, substance use, personality and political views by analyzing the topics and items they ‘liked,’ even if they set strong privacy settings for their page.

The study’s authors developed an algorithm that uses Facebook ‘likes’ to create personality profiles, potentially revealing a user’s personality. Anyone with training in data analysis could be able to derive such information, even if users had not explicitly shared it, they explained.

As a result, researchers were able to predict whether men were homosexual with 88 percent accuracy by their ‘like’ clicks on sites related to gay marriage or same-sex relations. Preferences of music and TV shows, for example, were also more revealing than users may have imagined: Men who liked the musical TV show ‘Glee’ were more likely to be gay, the study showed.

In 82 percent of cases, Christians and Muslims were correctly identified among the volunteer profiles.  And the study was not only predictive of sexuality or religion, but also a user’s IQ.

Those with higher IQs tended to more frequently like ‘The Colbert Report’ TV show, for example, or films like ‘The Godfather’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Those with lower IQs liked Harley Davidsons and Bret Michaels of the rock band Poison.

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