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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

Bat deaths in Himachal not due to Nipah Virus, Don’t panic: Govt

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Nipah virus in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla: To put an end to the rumours of Nipah virus outbreak in Himachal Pradesh after dead bats were found in Sirmaur a couple of days ago and then in Mandi district on Friday, the State Government today issued a statement asking people not to panic about it.

Apart from the outbreak of Nipah Virus in two districts of Kerala State no information regarding its spread has been reported from any other part of Himachal as well as the country, stated Additional Chief Secretary, Health B.K. Agarwal in a meeting held here today.

He said that only fruit bats (flying fox) have been found carrying this virus. These types of bats are found in the coastal regions of the county.

Therefore, there is no possibility of Nipah Virus in the bats found in Himachal Pradesh.

He said that the bats reported having died in the state were not due to the virus as these species do not die by Nipah Virus.

Agarwal said that a few days back samples from dead bats in Sirmaur were collected and sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune for testing and all the samples were reported negative for Nipah Virus.

Additional Chief Secretary has advised people not to panic about the Nipah Virus. He said that all the medical colleges of the State were prepared to deal with the situation if needed.

Officers of Health, Animal husbandry, Forest & Horticulture department were present in the meeting, chaired by Agarwal.

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Misc News/Press Release

Met predicts state-wide rains in Himachal on May 31 and June 1

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rain prediction for himachal in 2018

Shimla: As a ray of hope amid acute water-scarcity prevailing in Himachal Pradesh’s various regions including the capital town Shimla, the Meteorological Department, Shimla, has predicted state-wide rain with thunderstorms on May 31 and June 1.

If lucky, four districts including Kangra, Kullu, Mandi, and Shimla can receive a spell of rain on May 29 and 30 too.

With the rains, the people also hope to see a relief from the scorching heat of summer sun and forest fires. The Fire Department is reportedly facing trouble in dousing forest fires due to water scarcity.

As per the Met department, District Bilaspur and Una recorded 41℃ and 43℃ temperature on Saturday.

The farmers in rural areas and the public in towns, both are facing a hard time due to a shortage of water. Shimla town has run into a situation of chaos as the Mayor Kusum Sadret on Friday left for her China visit. The situation is such that the Chief Minister had to call an emergency meeting with Irrigation & Public Health Department to take stock of the situation.

The High Court had also taken cognizance of the media report and directed the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to provide adequate funds to the State for water-supply schemes worth over Rs. 700 crores.

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Environment

400 fire watchers deployed, Rs. 1.75 cr. sanctioned for checking forest fires in Himachal: Forest Minister

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Forest fires in himachal pradesh

Shimla: The Forest Minister of Himachal Pradesh Govind Singh Thakur today informed that four hundred fire watchers have been deputed across the State and added that Rs. 1.75 crore has been sanctioned by the GoI for checking and management of fire incidents in the State.

Every year, forest fires in summers turn a large amount of forest wealth to ashes. 

He said that State government has started a new project from this year for management of fire incidents by spending Rs. 1 crore additionally.

He also claimed that with a view to check the number of forest fire incidents in the State, the department implemented an awareness campaign in the month of March which proved effective and a lot of support and cooperation is coming from people in tackling fire incidents.

He said that about 9500 people got connected to the website of Forest Survey of India Dehradun which proved helpful to them in receiving information about fire incidents in their areas.

He said that the department also started a toll-free number for receiving this information. He said that the information regarding fire incidents is coming faster this year as compared to previous years due to these measures and action is being taken instantly.

He urged the people of the State to extend support to the department.

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