You Are What You Like

 highlights a Cambridge University study that shows how much people’s “likes” on Facebook can reveal about who they are. The study, published online at the Proceedings for the National Academy of the Sciences, focused on what 58,000 Facebook users decided to “like” on sites around the Web. The findings were that a great deal of nuanced information could be ascertained from these clicks about personal traits including:
  • gender
  • personality type
  • political views
  • sexual orientation.
Researchers were able to correctly distinguish between gay and straight men 88% of the time by analyzing the kinds of TV shows and movies they liked. They could also differentiate between drug users and non-drug users with 65% accuracy based on expressed public preferences. “Likes” even showed whether users’ parents had separated when they were young or not.


In some cases, this data could be beneficial to help improve marketing recommendations or  psychology research. But it also raises concerns about privacy. According to researchers:

One can imagine situations in which such predictions, even if incorrect, could pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom or even life.

A reminder: Facebook users can change the privacy settings at the sites they frequent to protect their preferences from the public domain.