Here’s a finding you may not be a fan of: the seemingly innocent act of “Liking” something on Facebook may reveal much more about your personal life than you intended.
While it does seem pretty obvious that Liking something on Facebook will reveal some information about your personal life – perhaps your minor cat obsession or your affinity for ‘Mad Men’ – it’s not so obvious that those Likes could reveal your gender, sexual orientation or use of addictive substances.
According to a new study out of the University of Cambridge, “Facebook Likes can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender.”
The study, which involved more than 58,000 Facebook users, predicted personal attributes based on Facebook Likes at a strikingly accurate rate. Researchers were able to correctly discriminate between African Americans and Caucasians in 95% of cases, between homosexual and heterosexual men in 88% of cases, and between Democrats and Republicans in 85% of cases.
The study also found correlation between personality traits and Likes. Users who Liked curly fries, Mozart and The Colbert Report were more likely to have a high IQ, while those who Liked British author Terry Pratchett were more likely to be introverts.
The researchers have made the tool available to everyone at www.youarewhatyoulike.com, which you can log into using your Facebook account to get your “one click personality.” (It’s pretty fun to check out, regardless of how legitimate you think it is.)
From a marketing perspective, this study reminds us that the constantly-growing pool of online data available to advertisers can be used to effectively reach a targeted audience.
However, the study also reminds us of the importance of understanding your privacy settings. Just because you’ve ensured your Facebook photos and status updates are inaccessible to those who aren’t friends with you, it doesn’t mean you’ve made your Facebook Likes inaccessible as well. As always, becognizant of what you share – and that includes what you decide to Like on Facebook.