Facebook lays bare your secrets, even if you don't know what you told them!


By Noel Young, Correspondent

March 11, 2013 | 3 min read

Facebook users are unwittingly giving away intimate secrets – including their sexual orientation, drug use and political beliefs – using only the social network's public "likes" , according to a study published yesterday in the US.

Facebook: Your secrets are out there!

The research into 58,000 Facebook users published in the Procceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that sensitive personal characteristics about people can be accurately gathered from information in the public domain.

Researchers were able to accurately infer a Facebook user's race, IQ, sexuality, substance use, personality or political views using only a record of the subjects and items they had "liked" on Facebook – even if users had chosen not to reveal that information, said the Guardian.

"The study will reopen the debate about privacy in the digital age and raise fresh concerns about what information people share online," said the report.

Michal Kosinski, one of the academics behind the study, told the Guardian he believed Facebook users would be "spooked" by the findings and called for regulatory intervention by politicians.

"The important point is that, on one hand, it is good that people's behaviour is predictable because it means Facebook can suggest very good stories on your news feed," said Kosinski, the lead Cambridge University analyst who worked with Microsoft Research on the study.

"But what is shocking is that you can use the same data to predict your political views or your sexual orientation. This is something most people don't realise you can do."

He warned that certain information – such as sexuality or religious views – could pose threats to internet users' safety if it got into the wrong hands.

"Everyone carries around their Facebook 'likes', their browsing history and their search history, trusting corporations that it will be used to predict their movies or music tastes," Kosinski told the Guardian.

"But if you ask about governments, I am not sure people would like them to predict things like religion or sexuality, especially in less peaceful or illiberal countries."

The researchers were able to predict whether men were homosexual with 88% accuracy by their 'likes of Facebook pages such as "Human Rights Campaign" and "Wicked the Musical" .

"Fewer than 5% of the homosexual participants in the study clicked obvious Likes, such as "Gay Marriage", researchers said.

Kosinsky said he hoped internet users would change their ways "and choose products and services that respect their privacy." said Kosinski.


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