With a title like “Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior,” you know it’s a research study of some kind. And it is. A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (or PNAS) reveals that 90% of the time, your sexuality can be determined by pages you “Like” on Facebook.
The study’s findings will likely not shock you:
We show that easily accessible digital records of behavior, 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 sepa- ration, age, and gender. The analysis presented is based on a dataset of over 58,000 volunteers who provided their Facebook Likes, detailed demographic profiles, and the results of several psychomet- ric tests. The proposed model uses dimensionality reduction for preprocessing the Likes data, which are then entered into logistic/ linear regression to predict individual psychodemographic profiles from Likes. The model correctly discriminates between homosexual and heterosexual men in 88% of cases, African Americans and Caucasian Americans in 95% of cases, and between Democrat and Republican in 85% of cases. For the personality trait “Openness,” prediction accuracy is close to the test–retest accuracy of a standard personality test. We give examples of associations between attri- butes and Likes and discuss implications for online personalization and privacy.
Sexual orientation was easier to distinguish among males (88%) than females (75%), which may suggest a wider behavioral divide (as observed from online behavior) between hetero- and homosexual males.
I look at my own “Likes” on Facebook and, alas, you would know I am gay:
What do your Facebook “Likes” say about you?