Who knew that a few likes on Facebook could actually identify the users’ sexual orientation? The new Facebook study results show how likes can study sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and political beliefs as well.
What’s the Facebook study about?
The research was carried out by the Columbia Business School, New York University and Northeastern Universiy in Boston. The researchers published their findings in the journal called the Big Data. The study stated that it could identify a gay or straight person by just studying a handful of likes.
According to the Telegraph, the researchers were able to find that even three likes on the social network can help the advertisers identify whether the users are gay or not, for targeting purposes. The sexual orientation could be known even if users withheld the information on Facebook deliberately.
Facebook holds a lot of personal information on its users which has revealed that people may not be comfortable with the networking sites knowing so much. The personal information includes contact information, location and also their browsing history. The research proposes that the social networking sites could introduce “cloaking system”. It could help them keep their identity hidden. It helps the sites to avoid drawing inferences against the user’s will, even if the inferences are exact.
The social networking sites have often characterized its users based on their page preferences and liking. These are considered as the key indicator of the users interests. There have been researches based on how the likes on facebook help reveal the user’s personalities.
The research authors worked on the aspect of how Facebook likes can identify different traits. They include sexual orientation, smoking and drinking habits, personal beliefs, IQ, etcetera. They concluded that eight likes or less was needed to identify a person confidently into one of these traits.
Further, they also could find that cloaking a few likes could stop facebook from drawing its own inferences on the users. This could be used in order to stop Facebook from determining their personality traits.
What has it got to say?
It only takes an average of 3.5 likes to stop Facebook from assuming that the user is a gay. 12.2 likes could stop the site from knowing you are a drug user. Around 11.7 likes can stop Facebook from inferring that you are a Muslim.
According to the researcher, “While some online users may benefit from being targeted based on inferences of their personal characteristics, others may find such inferences unsettling.”
“Not only may these inferences be incorrect due to a lack of data or inadequate models, some users may not wish to have certain characteristics inferred at all. To many, privacy invasions via statistical inferences are at least as troublesome as privacy invasions based on personal data,” the researchers stated in the study.
The authors added, “The cloaking device essentially tells the system: ‘do not draw inferences like this about me’ – or more practically, ‘do not show me ads or content for the same reasons that you decided to show me this.”
The Facebook study is an eye-opener to the rest of the world. This is a scary example of how nothing can remain private.