Monday, March 11, 2013

Revealing your traits with a 'like'

by Tom Carreras

I came across an interesting study today (also reported here). Some researchers recently compiled a bunch of information from Facebook regarding people's 'likes' of things and threw them into an algorithm. They then were able to, with surprising accuracy, predict one's sexual orientation, IQ, religion, political affiliation, and other traits.


All of that from a few 'likes'?

This brings up the issue of online security - both the awareness people have as far as what their security settings are as well as how protective they really are. This is a discussion that seems like it will continue on for a decent amount of time.

Even more than that though, I was very intrigued by the fact that so much information was revealed from looking at some seemingly meaningless 'likes'.

What do you think? Can people discover who we are through 'likes'? Is internet security good enough, or does it need to be strengthened? Something else?







20 comments:

  1. I'm a firm believer that statistics can say anything you want them to. They can be swayed in certain directions intentionally or not. It's kind of obvious that our "likes" on Facebook can say a lot about us. But I disagree with the PDF that they included in the first article. It makes absolutely no sense as to why liking Honda's page means you don't smoke. Why can't it just mean that people who like that page just have things in common? Why do they have to group us into categories like that? Just because I like something that is pro-Gay rights doesn't mean I'M homosexual. Maybe it just means I believe people have the right to be happy regardless of gender?

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  2. I agree with Amanda in that statistics are what you want them to be. You can also draw correlations between anything, and this is where critical reading skills are necessary. I think that we should be careful because of this though. Whatever you put on the internet can mostly be accessed by anyone. However, I do not think that people can discover who you are through likes. Sometimes I like things, because my family or friends are affiliated, not because it is a reflection of my personal beliefs. I think if internet security is strengthened, people will complain just as much as if it isn't. People will still make their assumptions regardless.

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  3. Honestly, I am not at all surprised that so much can be deduced from a person's likes. It seems obvious to me. I also don't think it means we need better Facebook security, just for people to be smart. If the only people able to see your likes are the ones you actually know, chances are you're not going to be the victim of anything. It's usually only when people go making Facebook friends with strangers that that would be an issue.

    I'm not sure yet what I think of the study, but I tried it myself, and it was correct on all counts but one, so I definitely don't think it's just a bunch of crap. Looking over the PDF, however, some of the ways things were categorized seemed terribly biased, racist, etc. It's terrible to think that some things might actually be able to be stereotyped so accurately. I understand that these are just based on what is most likely, not what is for certain, but still, come on! So yeah, my final conclusion is that this study is probably pretty decent but still off, like most things are, and that people should be smart when presenting themselves online. And that's a wrap.

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  4. People need to realize that anything and everything they put on the internet becomes instantly available to an extremely wide audience, no matter what they're "privacy" settings are set to. The risk of having your personal information multiples significantly if you're uneducated about the risks and etiquette of the internet.

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  5. That PDF included in the article really cracked me up. As Anna stated, so many of the "likes" played right into stereotypes, which was extremely interesting and amusing. However, I also agree with the gist of both Amanda's and Tierney's comments--correlation does not imply causation. To use Amanda's example, those who "liked" Honda's Facebook page tended to also be non-smokers, statistically speaking. But we have to ask ourselves, do these variables really cause one another? Logically, of course, the answer is probably "no," and this could probably be proven with further research. So in other words, it's important to take purely statistical data like this with a grain of salt and avoid forming definite opinions on them without further research.

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  6. I found this study really interesting. It does make sense that someone who "likes" a certain product or company on Facebook would have similar values or traits as another person who is invested in the same things. However, I don't think that this automatically, like others have stated, makes a single individual in the group of "likes" to be exactly as all the others.

    Think about it though, most of the time the things "liked" on a person's Facebook page have a direct impact on their lives - whether by entertainment, political, or product standpoint. Those important enough to a person tend to be the one's "liked." So it seems only fitting that there could be a correlation to who they are as an individual.

    I do think that Internet privacy will continue to be an issue. Especially since we're talking about Facebook, and these "likes" are being taken into account for ads specified to your page, etc. I think people just need to be careful and informed when they go online and be responsible about the sites and information they give away.

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  7. I know understand that a person's likes on facebook will change what they end up getting advertisements for on the ad banner on the side of the facebook page. I also know that the different videos you view on youtube will change the recommended advertisements you get when you view a video. It's all about target audience and crowd-sourcing. If I like A video game on facebook and watch videos of video game game play, of course I'll end up getting advertisements for Microsoft's new Video game console.
    Do I think it's an invasion of privacy? Not really. I'm almost proud of the internet's ability to give me advertisements relevant to what I want to see instead of getting advertisements for something completely irrelevant to my interests.
    Do I like what the internet and social media is learning about me through my likes and video watches? I hope so. What does a person want to hide or be ashamed of about themselves on the internet? If you are worried about something becoming public about yourself that you don't want the rest of the world to know, maybe you shouldn't post or like any status or pages that are related to the things that you are ashamed of.

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  8. I agree with Amanda that statistics can really say whatever you want them to and it makes sense that likes can tell you a lot about a person. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they could predict things about me based on my likes.

    I think that the problem with internet security is that people do not take the time to look at and change privacy settings. Lapses in security happen because people do not read the fine print when they agree to certain applications. I don't think it is an invasion of privacy to use that information to give me the ads that they think I want because I could change that if I really wanted to and I like that I get advertisements that I could be interested in.

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  9. I agree with Ben and Kaleah that using information to create cookies is not an invasion of privacy. I also rather like having ads that pertain to me (though they might sometimes result in me buying things I don't really have the money for!). I never understood why some people are so offended at having their favorite products and themes known by their internet, although Google Earth and such things may be a different story. To demonstrate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP7ebyqBn_M

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  10. I don't think that it is an invasion of privacy if an internet page is using a person's "likes" in order to find ads that pertain to them. There really is no privacy on the internet no matter what kind of privacy settings you put on your Facebook page. I think that people should be careful about what they put online because no matter what kind of privacy settings you have people will find a way to see it.

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  11. I believe that people can discover who our "internet selves" are online via social networking sites like facebook. But the bigger question concerns whether or not the persona we elicit on the internet is in fact an accurate depiction of who we really are. I think our culture has reached a point where we accept that we do not have much privacy on facebook and twitter. And I wonder if we are reaching a point where we differentiate someone's identity online from their reality-identity.

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  12. I believe that internet security will slowly be a non-issue. Recently, there has been a fire lit under everyone about not posting revealing information about oneself on social media. That will obviously stick around, and be common place practice. Internet awareness is the new thing, and eventually it will catch on.

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  13. On one hand, when we place ourselves on open forums like Facebook it is like an actor performing before an audience. They subject themselves to their fans, their friends, their family, and to their critics as well. It is our choice to put ourselves out there. Sure there's benefits like networking, staying in touch with old friends, or even becoming apart of the mainstream. It's still out responsibility to protect ourselves as much as we can on our part.

    With that, I think security on Facebook is where we want it to be.

    On a second note I'm rather not surprised someone tried to do a study of how likes correlate to an individuals personality. Research wise, it's a goldmine of information to grab from. endless amounts of participants to draw the "accurate" results. However "accurate" hardly pertains to this data, in my opinion. In research there are always confounding variables that makes the results relatively untrue. It's a way for the researches to recognize there will be logical flaws to watch out for. Although it is interesting what people like tells about who they are, it's very surface heavy; it's not digging deeper into why people like just want they like. A person could like something as a joke. The status itself could be misleading and therefore present a different interpretation. This study just doesn't understand the human capability in this case. It doesn't understand human expression a a diverse subject. I find it neat, but very silly.

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  15. This just goes to show that almost all of what is written (or even clicked) online takes the form of public discourse, whether the user intended it to be public discourse or not. I think that many people don't even think about where they're writing or what they're writing about, although the public is becoming more informed on the topic. What you like on Facebook has become a form of public discourse, no matter what your privacy settings are.

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  16. Out of curiosity, I tried out the app. I was actually very amused with the results. While it didn't capture my entire personality, it was able to infer some basic things about myself that I wouldn't disagree with. It makes me think about cold readings that psychics are good at.

    This study doesn't bother me when it comes to "internet security." I'm more concerned about my financial security on the web rather than what kind of data can be mined from my Facebook page. After all, that's what Facebook is for; our social interaction simply keeps us coming back.

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  17. This concept reminds me a lot of things like Sherlock Holms and The Mentalist. A truly observant person can determine a lot about an individual from small things that they see in real life. If this is the case, it seems like it would be even easier with something as well structured and concrete as "liking" facebook pages.

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  18. I feel as though this makes a lot of sense. Mostly because everything you "like" on FB was put there so you would like it. Just kind of like when you shop online then the next day you go to a website and see a cellphone advertisement for the phone you just purchased or a recent site you just visited. Facebook does something similar. The more you like someones statuses, the more that someone will show up in your feed. So if you start liking religious posts then more posts will show in your feed. Then with this algorithm they can tell you exactly what you like because its all already written down with a "like"...

    I like to call this the COOKIE effect.

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  19. I think if you really wanted to figure out what a person is like - by looking at their 'likes' on Facebook you could. Because a person just has to look at the obvious which is exactly what the computer system did. As far as security goes, I believe the internet can be as safe as we want it. I think it's up to the individual to take time and look at the security settings and inform themselves on what will be on the internet. I think people are too comfortable with the fact that they think no one is paying attention and use that as an excuse to for them to be careless.

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  20. If you were to comb through everything that I have ever "liked" during the approximately six years that I've been using Facebook,there's no doubt in my mind that you would be able to piece together an accurate representation of my sense of humor, my interests, political beliefs, etc. I wouldn't mind having some checks in place to prevent people from figuring out who I am though. This is why I tend to keep my profile information as private as possible.

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