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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 7 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 world around him in his DSLR lens.

Misc News/Press Release

Will deliver Rs. 1351 crore Bilaspur AIIMS in 2 years: CM Jairam

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Bilaspur AIIMS Construction Progress

 Bilaspur-Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and Union Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda performed the ground-breaking ceremony (Bhoomi Pujan) of AIIMS at Kothipura in Bilaspur district today.

Jai Ram Thakur said that this Rs. 1351 crore AIIMS would be completed within a period of two years and would have a bed capacity of 750 beds, out of which 300 beds would be for super speciality. There would be 100 MBBS seats and 60 nursing seats in the institute.

He blamed the previous State Government of causing an unnecessary delay in transferring the land for this institution.

Union Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda said that the institute would have Affordable Medicine and Reliable Implants for Treatment (AMRIT) outlets and Jan Aushadhi Kendra where medicine would be provided at highly discounted rates to the poor and needy.

He informed that the project would be executed by NBCC Ltd. and would have 15 operation theatres and 20 speciality and super speciality departments.  In addition, it would also have an AYUSH Department with 30 beds for providing treatment facilities in the traditional system of medicine.

Further, the Chief Minister announced shifting of PWD Division Number-II from Bilaspur to Kothipura, besides shifting Division Number -II of Shri Naina Devi Ji.

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Campus Watch

Nauni Varsity Admissions Open for Diploma in Fruit, Vegetable Processing & Bakery products

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Nauni varsity admissions for diploma

Solan-The Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni has invited applications for its one-year Diploma in Fruit and Vegetable Processing and Bakery products. The diploma will be run by the Department of Food Science and Technology of the university.

This year, the university has also reduced the fee charged for the diploma to Rs 5000. Earlier, the fee for this diploma was Rs 20,000. The decision was taken to ensure that more and more people can apply for the programme.

In addition, the programme has also been linked to the Skill Development Allowance scheme of the Government of Himachal Pradesh. Any person enrolled in the programme can also apply for this allowance.

The minimum educational qualification for this diploma programme is Class 10+2 with at least 40 per cent with no age cap for admission. The last date of application is 17 January 2019 and the counselling will be held on 19 January.

A total of 35 seats are available in the programme. Prospectus and application form can be downloaded from the university website(www.yspuniversity.ac.in).

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Misc News/Press Release

234 Ambulance Roads in Shimla City Declared ‘No Parking Zones’, Parking woes to Intensify

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List of ambulance roads in Shimla City declared no parking zones

Shimla- The parking woes have intensified in Shimla City as the District Magistrate of Shimla, Amit Kashyap, issued an official notification on December 19, 2018, in which 234 ambulance roads in Shimla city were declared as “No Parking Zones.

As per the notification, based on the report received from the Superintendent of Police, Shimla, it was found that the residents, as well as outsiders, had turned link roads into unauthorized parking spaces, which results into huge traffic jam and inconvenience to the smooth passage of ambulances carrying patients along with the general the public.

Therefore, the District Magistrate declared all the following 234 ambulance roads as “No Parking Zones”:


He said the decision was taken keeping in view the necessity of smooth flow of traffic and passage to ambulances on ambulance roads in Shimla City.

As per the notification, the matter was highlighted as the local residents of the Middle Cemetery, upper Gahan, Bhatttakufar, Dhingu Bawari, Frud, Lower Gahan, and Nerridhar had requested to declare the ambulance roads leading from Dhigu Bawari to Lower Gahan and From PWD Workshop Bhattakuffer to Jai Moti Bhawan (Cemetary) as “No Parking Zone” as some of the people park their vehicles on these roads resulting in traffic jams and obstruct ambulances.

While the government has a policy to allow buying vehicles only if an applicant could provide evidence of having a parking space, there are a large number of cars which were either bought before the formation of this policy or are registered in other districts of the State.

A section of vehicle owners have expressed unrest against this decision and argued that it was not fair, as the government did not provide sufficient authorized parking spaces in localities.

Having a personal parking space doesn’t matter as soon as an individual drives to other parts of the city. Sufficient parking spaces based on the required capacity of a particular Ward or locality are needed to fix this problem, and it is apparently the government’s job

said a resident of Khalini, Shimla.

On the other hand, the majority of the general public has supported the decision expecting that it would make these roads more convenient and smoother for traffic.

However, the district police is likely to face a lot of resistance from local residents while ensuring compliance with the orders passed.

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