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Facebook Knows If You're Gay, Use Drugs, Or Are a Republican 473

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-are-what-you-like dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Not that there's anything wrong with that — as the Guardian reports that Facebook users are unwittingly revealing their sexual orientation, drug use and political beliefs– using only public 'like' updates. A study of 58,000 Facebook users in the US found that sensitive personal characteristics about people can be accurately inferred from information in the public domain. Researchers were able to accurately infer a Facebook user's race, IQ, sexuality, substance use, personality or political views (PDF) using only a record of the subjects and items they had 'liked' on Facebook – even if users had chosen not to reveal that information. 'It is good that people's behavior is predictable because it means Facebook can suggest very good stories on your news feed,' says Michal Kosinski, 'But what is shocking is that you can use the same data to predict your political views or your sexual orientation. This is something most people don't realize you can do.' For example, researchers were able to predict whether men were homosexual with 88% accuracy by their likes of Facebook pages such as 'Human Rights Campaign' and 'Wicked the Musical' – even if those users had not explicitly shared their sexuality on the site. According to the study other personality traits linked to predictive likes include for High IQ — 'The Godfather,' 'Lord of the Rings,' 'The Daily Show'; for Low IQ — 'Harley Davidson,' 'I Love Being A Mom,' 'Tyler Perry'; and for male heterosexuality — 'Wu Tang Clan,' 'Shaq,' and 'Being Confused after Waking Up from Naps.' Facebook's default privacy settings mean that your 'likes' are public to anyone and Facebook's own algorithms already use these likes to dictate what stories end up in users' news feeds, while advertisers can access them to determine which are the most effective ads to show you as you browse."
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Facebook Knows If You're Gay, Use Drugs, Or Are a Republican

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:14PM (#43143271)

    FB incorrectly presumes that I am not str8 and like MJ, when I happen to be str8 and don't use MJ.

    I just like Freedom.

    All your analysis of Like proves is that you don't get how people work.

  • Also (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mozumder (178398) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:15PM (#43143285)

    You can tell that just by talking to people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:15PM (#43143291)

    They have a job for you at Facebook.

  • Turns out (Score:5, Funny)

    by WillgasM (1646719) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:16PM (#43143297) Homepage
    Turns out, I'm gay. Even Facebook knew it before I did.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:22PM (#43143357)

      *phew* close call, you could have been a republican!

    • Re:Turns out (Score:5, Interesting)

      by KingSkippus (799657) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:51PM (#43143657) Homepage Journal

      Funny, but it does make me wonder. While I'm not gay, I do tend to like statuses and pages that have to do with gay rights, and several of my friends on Facebook are gay, yet I still see ads all the time for single ladies in my area. It makes me wonder: 1) Has Facebook accurately pegged me as straight (or bisexual) even though I haven't given it any direct indication of what I am, 2) has Facebook not made the connection and/or advertisers don't care, just spamming their ads to all males, or 3) is Facebook using some other algorithm that happens to be accurate for me, but generally less accurate for the population as a whole? Personally, I think #2 is correct.

      I'd like to see a page about me that says, "Here's the information you've provided, and here's the information we're inferring from what we know about you." I suppose they'd never do that because it might very well creep people out too much, but then, it might get people whose inferences are wrong to directly supply the information to them.

      • Re:Turns out (Score:5, Interesting)

        by 246o1 (914193) on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:00PM (#43143731)

        I'd like to see a page about me that says, "Here's the information you've provided, and here's the information we're inferring from what we know about you." I suppose they'd never do that because it might very well creep people out too much, but then, it might get people whose inferences are wrong to directly supply the information to them.

        BlueKai does something similar (except it's for a wide range of display advertising, not just facebook) - they infer things about you based on your browsing history and use that to target ads at you. They are all over the web, so they have a good amount of information, but the surprising thing to me is that they let you look at your profile on their website - http://www.bluekai.com/registry/ [bluekai.com] is the place to find it.

        I don't work for BlueKai, or even for a company that uses them.

    • by game kid (805301)

      Wait 'til they study RPG character creation. By extrapolation from the Wicked findings and my female mage frequency, they'll conclude I'm the chair of glaad and late to the next board meeting.

  • But (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Master Moose (1243274) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:17PM (#43143311) Homepage

    The highest intelligence indicator were the users who ignored everything, revealed very little and never "liked" anything - knowing that anything they did on facebook would be mined and used for metrics and marketing.

    • Re:But (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:20PM (#43143343)

      Not Intelligent, just paranoid. Kinda like posting anonymously on Slashdot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There's no intelligence left on facebook. I routinely campaign for my co-habitating "things" (Do I call them human?) to not use facebook and delete their profiles, stop playing their dumb-ass facebook games and start getting "involved in their economy and government".

        They facebook, smoke, drink, and whine about how the government and corporate monopolies are oppressive, rather then considering doing anything about it. They also pretend to garden. Which is ironic because they would starve if walmart and publ

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          I bet you can deduce a lot from what I have to say.

          You're a bitter college drop-out with mild self-diagnosed Asperger's, your parents told you that you were special because you once got over 120 on an IQ test after they force fed you answers for three straight weeks, you're puritanical in your outlook on life despite thinking of yourself as socially progressive, and (above all) you need to get laid?

    • Re:But (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dwywit (1109409) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:24PM (#43143389)

      Wouldn't the "highest intelligence indicator" be applied to those who don't "do" facebook, twitter, etc?
       
      Or did I just miss something flying over my head?

      • Re:But (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rsborg (111459) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:29PM (#43143449) Homepage

        Wouldn't the "highest intelligence indicator" be applied to those who don't "do" facebook, twitter, etc?

        Or did I just miss something flying over my head?

        You aren't missing it, but aren't seeing the totality of Facebook's insidious nature. Now not having a Facebook account is treated by HR departments as suspicious behavior. Also, Facebook made it easy for people to "tag" you - if you don't have an account, you can't repudiate it (or prevent tagging by default). You are literally forced to play their game unless you want your good name being abused. So best move is to have one that's effectively empty, and turn all privacy settings down to the most private.

        Of course this defeats the purpose of having a Facebook account - but that's the purpose, right?

        • Re:But (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:50PM (#43143651)

          Now not having a Facebook account is treated by HR departments as suspicious behavior.

          Frankly, any HR department that really thinks this can go fuck itself with an iron stick.

          I think this is a myth the media is pushing to try to get more people on Facebook.

          • Re:But (Score:4, Insightful)

            by s.petry (762400) on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:55PM (#43144239)

            I agree. Especially when I hear the constant "follow us on Facebook and Twitter" plugs on every major news agency. Twitter would be fine for members of an active revolution or something.. but not day to day contact and communication. I don't care when you fart or how good your hamburger tasted. Most other people don't care either. The delusions of grandeur we can access so easily, and yes that is what many people use it for.

            • I don't care when you fart or how good your hamburger tasted.

              I don't blame you for not caring. However, I know for a fact that my co-workers do care when I fart.

        • Re:But (Score:4, Interesting)

          by GumphMaster (772693) on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:09PM (#43143821)

          Now not having a Facebook account is treated by HR departments as suspicious behavior.

          This, I fear, is quite believable given some of the looks of incredulity I have had when asked by HR for my mobile (cell, for our American brethren) number. I politely decline on the grounds that I neither own nor want a mobile phone. One HR drone even accused me of being dishonest because it was so far beyond her youthful experience as to be unbelievable that one could survive without a mobile. Heck, our home phone when I was a child was made of bakelite and had a handle on the front you turned vigorously to get the operator's attention: our complete phone number was "78". (For the record I am only 45.)

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      in other news my 3 other personalities are super intelligent, because they've never liked a single thing or shared even a real seeming name on fb.

      stupid study all and all. of course you can make an educated guess that someone who has twenty likes for different marijuana pages might think that marijuana is cool and if he's a male and has marked himself as seeking men and has attended the gayfest2012 at bar supergay then maybe, just maybe, he's gay. or someone has been fucking around with his computer. or you

      • by Kjella (173770)

        but if you never reveal anything, never show support for anything - what's the point in having an online presence? is this really taking the never talk to the cops video to the extreme? never talk to anyone publicly on record? never sign a petition for anything? HOW FUCKING FUCKED UP ARE AMERICANS TODAY?

        Facebook invitations is the only reason I care to have a profile there. If you want to get to know me, get to know me don't be a Facebook stalker. At least there's nothing I feel like broadcasting to all the "friends" I have there, nor does 99.9% of what shows up there interest me. I could go through it I suppose and hide everything but the people I actually care about hearing something from it's always awkward if you're on Facebook and didn't see some major event a semi-close friend posted because you've h

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spy Handler (822350)

      The highest intelligence indicator were the people who never joined facebook and want nothing to do with it.

      However, people with the lowest IQ who cannot learn to operate a computer or a phone also were not able to join Facebook.

      • Re:But (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:32PM (#43144525) Homepage

        The highest intelligence indicator were the people who never joined facebook and want nothing to do with it.

        Three quarters of the Mensa members I know use Facebook. I know a lot of *very* smart and intelligent people, and the vast majority of them are on Facebook too.
         
        Seriously Slashdot, get the fuck over yourself - this ignorant bias against anyone who uses Facebook doesn't make you intelligent, it makes you look like a jackass.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        The highest intelligence indicator were the people who never joined facebook and want nothing to do with it.

        And the highest smug indicator were [sic] the people who posted the fact that they don't have a facebook account on slashdot.

  • What the hell do any of those listed have to do with male heterosexuality? All it shows is that you are an American with narcolepsy. Shouldn't they be looking for likes of certain types of pictures and jokes?
    • by fermion (181285)
      Hence the 12% error rate. This is a game or a means to allow advertisers to target users. It is really no different that assuming your status based on the neighborhood you live in. Or your intentions based on the bars you visit. I pretty much know if you gay, a frat boy, looking for rich husband, based on what I bar I see you in.
  • I wonder... (Score:4, Funny)

    by bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:22PM (#43143363)
    if that "Honey-Boo-Boo like" on Facebook will lower my IQ score...
    • by idontgno (624372)
      Liking anything on the former "The Learning Channel" is indisputable proof that your IQ can't go any lower. The fact that you make that liking visible in Facebook doesn't change that one way or the other.
  • Uses a similar methodology (SVD, which was the highest scoring method in isolation) to correlate Likes with Traits, whereas Netflix used prior movie Likes to correlate with future movie Likes. Effectively, Netflix's competition was probably correlating with a hidden indicator or personality subtype set which corresponded strongly to likes of particular movies.

    It is highly likely that were they to apply the winning method from the Netflix competition (SVD paired with a weighted set of other indicators) that

  • Facebook (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThePeices (635180)

    I love stories like this. As if I needed any more, but this is just yet another reason why I am so glad I removed my Facebook account years ago.

    Why people will happily hand over the intimate details of their lives, in the face of dozens of horrifying Facebook privacy stories, ill never know.
    I guess Facebook users are like battered wives. They get their teeth kicked in by the abusive BF time after time, but wont leave him because 'they still love him'.

    • Re:Facebook (Score:4, Insightful)

      by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:37PM (#43144059) Journal

      Why people will happily hand over the intimate details of their lives, in the face of dozens of horrifying Facebook privacy stories, ill never know.

      Here's an interesting question, though: What percentage of Facebook users have been adversely affected by Facebook's privacy ills?

      Have I had a police officer show up at my door with a search warrant because Facebook believes I'm a drug user? Nope.
      Have I been hit on by men because Facebook believes I'm homosexual? Nope.
      Have a group of republicans descended on me because Facebook believes I'm republican? Nope.

      Have I lost a job due to any of the above? Nope. Been denied a loan? Nope.

      Don't get me wrong, I somewhat agree with you. But I'm not sure your "battered wife" analogy stands up in that there is no actual battery going on. If I were to use your analogy, the best I could say is "how can she be married to someone who could beat her, even though he never has?"

  • Gaydar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:29PM (#43143453)

    Similar research conducted by MIT student project back in 2009. See http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2611/2302. Surprised it wasn't cited.

  • Base rates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jon Willits (2863101) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:30PM (#43143457)
    I can do better than 88% accuracy at guessing if people are homosexual by guessing "no" every time.
    • by fatphil (181876)
      You don't have that option in the test they did. They took a gay and a straight, and you (the mathematical model) had to determine which one was gay and which was straight. You can't apply your method to this test.
  • cultural (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MavEtJu (241979) <slashdot.mavetju@org> on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:31PM (#43143465) Homepage
    the researchers found that users who "like" "Thunderstorms," "The Colbert Report," "Science" or "Curly Fries" are all slightly more likely to have high IQ than those who don't.

    And it rated for people not living in heavily American culturally influenced and non native English speaking countries that they all had a lower IQ.

  • Here's a question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:33PM (#43143493) Homepage Journal

    So facebook knows all sorts of things about people.

    Here's a question: Does facebook know if you're guilty?

  • "Facebook Has Information That Can Infer If You're Gay, Use Drugs, Or Are a Republican"
    Researchers, who crunch data found on Facebook, can infer traits to an accuracy of as much as 88% in one instance.

  • This is not shocking, it's kind of obvious. And in other news, bears shit in woods.

  • ...imagine what Reddit knows. /shudders/

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Political party affiliation is public record. Anyone can find out, There isn't any secretive voodoo to it.

  • by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:43PM (#43143597) Homepage

    I left the TV on when I fell asleep, so I was confused when I woke up from my nap to discover Tyler Perry talking about The Lord of the Rings on the Daily Show. If I was that rich I would just buy a really Wicked Harley Davidson.

  • I was having a conversation about physics with a friend via comments. It wrapped up with him expressing he enjoyed the argument, thanked me, and added "we should get high sometime. Haha, jk." Anyway, I liked the comment because of the leading statement. The next day I see a "suggested post" about marijauna. Thanks FB. I tried pot in college, the time and place for that, and have too much to lose by getting caught with it now. However, I think you should be able to do what you want with your body and lega
  • Just The Tip (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:14PM (#43143867) Homepage

    found that sensitive personal characteristics about people can be accurately inferred from information in the public domain.

    I've done this stuff, for both ad targeting and music targeting, and I understand the math. Knowing whether you are gay is just the tip of the iceberg.

    From the data it can be inferred whether you believe Bradley Manning was justified, whether you think it is treason for a politician to support warrantless surveillance, and whether you believe the "four boxes" epigram is relevant in the current context.

    It can be inferred how you react to various turns of phrase, which ways of presenting an idea will ring with you, and therefore how to present a story to you, such that you will be likely to repeat the sound bites on one side of the issue or the other.

    They can do this, with an automated system, for hundreds of millions of people -- as can anyone who pays them enough for the data or analysis. It is not a difference in type from what has gone by the name of PR, spin, or handling; but rather a difference of speed, pervasiveness, precision targeting, and potency. It puts more power to distort human perception of reality in the hands of fewer people than ever before -- by orders of magnitude.

    The data, once gathered, will remain, and will be packaged and sold, and cracked and siezed, until long after you are dead -- barring some very serious and extremely disruptive counteractivity. It is getting worse every day, and the cost of correcting it is growing exponentially.

    Most people don't know it is happening, and most of those who do don't seem to grasp the consequences.

  • I love this stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pclminion (145572) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:19PM (#43144851)

    People like to think that they're "undefinable". In fact, all they are are values of a vector random variable. If you know the values of some of the components you can infer the values of others, because they are not all independent. A similar principle (vector quantization) is used in lossy data compression.

    Somebody will come in here and say "No, you can't know for certain, that's what makes us human" -- no, that's what makes you a random variable. A vector-valued one, but a random variable nonetheless.

  • by zedrdave (1978512) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:34PM (#43145295)
    "I had not selected any political orientation, yet these researchers were able to predict my Democrat leanings, merely based on my 'like' of Barack Obama's page. What witchcraft science is that!?"

    From all I could read of these (repeated) stories, this is so basic it barely even count as data mining. Also, I'd really like to see the the type I and II errors in that thing: sure, the guys who 'liked' a dozen pages for disney musicals might have higher chances of turning out to be gay, but what about the handful who just really like musicals? Same for the hetero guys who support gay friends and will like gay rights pages. And better hope that absolutely nobody out there practices sarcastic liking (but we're safe, because really: who is ever sarcastic online these days).

    Wake me up when we are talking actual science and real data-mining, not two-bit hacking and obvious results.
  • by msevior (145103) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @02:28AM (#43146339)

    Coz I browse with the ad-block plugin with Firefox.
    Makes the web a whole lot more enjoyable.

    BTW here is a fun trick. Trying posting a message about Ad-Block on facebook. It will get blocked.

    Next try the most direct method you can think of to tell your friends to try ad-block on facebook. See what gets allowed.....
    Clearly FB has algorithms that censor posts. It is fun to see what really annoys them though :-)

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