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Your Facebook profile exposes your intimate secrets: Research

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facebook profile can expose

facebook profile can expose

Using a dataset of more than 58,000 U.S. Facebook users, University of Cambridge researchers predicted race, age, IQ, sexuality, personality, substance use and political views using Likes alone.

New research, published today in the journal PNAS, shows that surprisingly accurate estimates of Facebook users’ race, age, IQ, sexuality, personality, substance use and political views can be inferred from automated analysis of only their Facebook Likes – information currently publicly available by default.

In the study, researchers describe Facebook Likes as a “generic class” of digital record – similar to web search queries and browsing histories – and suggest that such techniques could be used to extract sensitive information for almost anyone regularly online.

Researchers at Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre, in collaboration with Microsoft Research Cambridge, analysed a dataset of over 58,000 US Facebook users, who volunteered their Likes, demographic profiles and psychometric testing results through the myPersonality application.

Users opted in to provide data and gave consent to have profile information recorded for analysis. Facebook Likes were fed into algorithms and corroborated with information from profiles and personality tests.

Researchers created statistical models able to predict personal details using Facebook Likes alone. Models proved 88% accurate for determining male sexuality, 95% accurate distinguishing African-American from Caucasian American and 85% accurate differentiating Republican from Democrat. Christians and Muslims were correctly classified in 82% of cases, and good prediction accuracy was achieved for relationship status and substance abuse – between 65 and 73%.

But few users clicked Likes explicitly revealing these attributes. For example, less that 5% of gay users clicked obvious Likes such as Gay Marriage. Accurate predictions relied on ‘inference’ – aggregating huge amounts of less informative but more popular Likes such as music and TV shows to produce incisive personal profiles.

Even seemingly opaque personal details such as whether users’ parents separated before the user reached the age of 21 were accurate to 60%, enough to make the information “worthwhile for advertisers”, suggest the researchers.

While they highlight the potential for personalised marketing to improve online services using predictive models, the researchers also warn of the threats posed to users’ privacy. They argue that many online consumers might feel such levels of digital exposure exceed acceptable limits – as corporations, governments, and even individuals could use predictive software to accurately infer highly sensitive information from Facebook Likes and other digital ‘traces’.

The researchers also tested for personality traits including intelligence, emotional stability, openness and extraversion. While such latent traits are far more difficult to gauge, the accuracy of the analysis was striking. Study of the openness trait – the spectrum of those who dislike change to those who welcome it – revealed that observation of Likes alone is roughly as informative as using an individual’s actual personality test score.

Some Likes had a strong but seemingly incongruous or random link with a personal attribute, such as Curly Fries with high IQ, or That Spider is More Scared Than U Are with non-smokers.

When taken as a whole, researchers believe that the varying estimations of personal attributes and personality traits gleaned from Facebook Like analysis alone can form surprisingly accurate personal portraits of potentially millions of users worldwide.

They say the results suggest a possible revolution in psychological assessment which – based on this research – could be carried out on an unprecedented scale without costly assessment centres and questionnaires.

“We believe that our results, while based on Facebook Likes, apply to a wider range of online behaviours.” said Michal Kosinski, Operations Director at the Psychometric Centre, who conducted the research with his Cambridge colleague David Stillwell and Thore Graepel from Microsoft Research.

“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. 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,” said Kosinski. “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.”

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

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.”

Source: Press Release University of Cambridge

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Misc News/Press Release

Himachal Lost 408 Human Lives, 207 Animals in Winter Season Alongwith Extensive Horticultural, Agricultural Damages

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winter season loss in himachal pradesh 2019

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh suffered major loss and damage in the winter season due to heavy snowfall, avalanches, landslides, hailstorms, and heavy rains. Between January 1 to March 31, 2019. The state lost as many as 408 human lives and 207 animal lives. Similarly, 1346 houses, 9516 water supply schemes were damaged, 30,921 electricity lines were disrupted, 10,260 LT electrical poles were damaged. Besides, 13,733-kilometre roads length and 377-hectare horticulture crop area was affected during the period.

Chief Secretary B.K. Agarwal, who chaired a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) on Friday, released this information. The Team was on the three-day visit to the State to assess the damages and losses occurred during winter season-2019 in the State.

Based on this assessment, the State has submitted a memorandum of loss and damages to the government of India amounting to Rs. 374.21 crore.

The State suffered damage to the horticulture and agriculture sector to the tune of 0.54 crore, animal husbandry Rs. 0.19 crore, fishery 0.015 crores, housing Rs. 10.46 crore, community assets Rs. 2.50 crore, forest Rs. 6.78 crore, Public works department Rs. 242.27 crore, IPH Rs. 43.97 crore and Power Rs. 51.17 crore. Besides Rs. 16.32 crore have been distributed as ex-gratia for human lives lost during the calamities in the winter season, informed Director-cum-Special Secretary, HP Disaster Management Authority D.C Rana.

The IMCT team headed by Joint Secretary, KB Singh from Freedom Fighters Rehabilitation department assessed the damages at various places in Shimla, Kinnaur, Chamba, Kullu and Mandi districts.

The other members if the IMCT were Director (Horticulture) Dr. M.N. Singh, Director (Expenditure) S.C. Meena, Deputy Director (Ministry of Rural Development), Deputy Director from Rural Development SS Modi, Director, Central Water Commission OP Gupta, Deputy Director, Power OP Suman, Regional Officer, Road Transport and Highways Vipnesh Sharma.

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Shimla-Rash Private Bus Driver Allegedly Rams Bus Loaded With Passengers Into a Parked Tipper

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Private Bus Accident in Shimla due to rash driving

Shimla-Private bus operators of Shimla are already infamous for rash driving and racing with each other, competing over timings. Several accidents and incidents of rash driving have been reported in the past as well. However, the laxity of the district administration and the police continue to encourage them to carry on with their death races.  

In yet another such incident, driver of a private bus ‘Rajendra’ rammed the bus loaded with passengers into a tipper parked on the roadside near BCS in Shimla City on Saturday evening. Fortunately, except a couple of passengers who received minor injuries, no one was hurt. The collision crushed the front part of the tipper. No one was present inside the tipper when the incident took place.

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While the driver cited mechanical fault ( broken axle) as a reason for the accident, the passengers narrated a different story. The passengers could be seen telling the police that the driver was driving very rashly right from the Old ISBT. Several passengers asked the driver repeatedly to not drive rashly. The driver and the conductor, the passengers said, did not listen at all. Rather, they told passengers that it’s not a big deal and nothing would happen.

The passengers also complained that the driver and conductor were continuously passing obscene remarks to drivers of other vehicles including tourist vehicles. They also alleged the driver appeared to be under the influence of some intoxicating substance.

On the other hand, instead of apologizing to the passengers, the driver was seen arguing with them in the presence of the police. While the driver of the bus and tipper arrived at a mutual compromise, the injured passengers were not taken for medical examination, and simply sent to fetch medicines from nearby chemist.

The passenger also complained that the police took their statements, which were not recorded, lightly.

The accident has again exposed how laxity on the part of the district administration and the traffic police is turning private bus operators into a mafia. This mafia doesn’t care for traffic rules or the lives of the passengers.

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Bilaspur – Girl Kidnapped, Molested, Then Thrown Out of Vehicle, Two Suspects Nabbed

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Bilaspur Kidnapping Case

Bilaspur-Safety of females in Himachal Pradesh is again in question as a case of attempted kidnapping and molestation was reported from Bilaspur district on past Wednesday.

As per the police, a girl, who is a student, got off a Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) bus near College Chowk in Roura Sector at approximately 9 PM on Wednesday. She was walking towards her home in Diara Sector when two men forcibly dragged her inside a white car taking advantage of darkness as power supply was disrupted due to stormy conditions.  The girl tried to escape but was overcome by the men.

When they tried to molest her, the girl began to shout loudly. The kidnappers then threw her out of the vehicle and sped away. The girl informed her parents about the incident, who then reached the police station and filed a complaint.

The Superintendent of Police, Bilaspur, Ashok Verma, confirmed the report. He informed that a case has been filed for kidnapping and molestation. Based on the statement of the girl and CCTV footage, two suspects were arrested on the following day. On Friday, these suspects were produced in the court. The court has sent them to judicial custody till July 17.

Considering the sensitivity of the case, the SP said he would himself monitor the investigation.

Both of the arrested suspects were said to be sanitation workers employed with the town’s Municipal Council. After receiving permission from the court, an identification parade would be conducted.  No further details of suspects were released.

   

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