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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 @05:14PM (#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 @05:15PM (#43143285)

    You can tell that just by talking to people.

  • Re:Also (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mozumder (178398) on Monday March 11, 2013 @05:16PM (#43143301)

    and i'm pretty sure your credit card companies already knows these things just from your purchase habits.

  • But (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Master Moose (1243274) on Monday March 11, 2013 @05:17PM (#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.

  • by UneducatedSixpack (2829861) on Monday March 11, 2013 @05:23PM (#43143371)
    One day you will "like" something wrong...
  • Re:But (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dwywit (1109409) on Monday March 11, 2013 @05:24PM (#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?

  • Facebook (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThePeices (635180) on Monday March 11, 2013 @05:26PM (#43143417)

    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'.

  • Gaydar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @05:29PM (#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 @05:30PM (#43143457)
    I can do better than 88% accuracy at guessing if people are homosexual by guessing "no" every time.
  • cultural (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MavEtJu (241979) <slashdot@@@mavetju...org> on Monday March 11, 2013 @05:31PM (#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.

  • Re:But (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Monday March 11, 2013 @05:44PM (#43143611) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Your analysis of their analysis proves that you can't analyze analyses. Being right 88% of the time means being wrong 12% of the time. It's not special that they aren't right for you.
  • Re:But (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @05:50PM (#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.

  • by stillpixel (1575443) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:07PM (#43143811) Homepage Journal
    nothing wrong with being batshit crazy.. nope not at all.
  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:22PM (#43143947)

    Your analysis of their analysis proves that you can't analyze analyses. Being right 88% of the time means being wrong 12% of the time. It's not special that they aren't right for you.

    Also, being "right" 88% of the time is meaningless unless you break out false positives and false negatives. It is estimated that 5-10% of the population is gay. So I could just predict that everyone is straight, and I would be "right" more than 90% of the time.

  • Re:Facebook (Score:4, Insightful)

    by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:37PM (#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?"

  • Re:But (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s.petry (762400) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:55PM (#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.

  • Re:Also (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s.petry (762400) on Monday March 11, 2013 @06:58PM (#43144265)

    Well, credit card companies are probably digging all the information. Insurance agencies also. Guess who gets a higher premium in their life insurance? Guess who gets better credit?

  • Re:But (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:32PM (#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 hedwards (940851) on Monday March 11, 2013 @07:46PM (#43144633)

    And how many women on these sites are really single?

  • by lightknight (213164) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:19PM (#43144855) Homepage

    Ah, the power of gossip. When everyone 'knows' what you are thinking, except it's the wrong thing, but your attempts to correct it lead to two unhappy outcomes: a lack of privacy or no change at all (the more you attempt to convince people otherwise, the more it confirms it in their eyes). Were it not for the passive aggressive nature of mankind, it might even be entertaining; but sadly, this is some people's lives...

    I've noticed an interesting defense mechanism is to talk about someone else that a group can agree is deplorable, if only because it prevents active gossiping about any of the immediate members. Human beings are such ugly creatures....

  • by pclminion (145572) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:03PM (#43145107)

    The more they mine data, the more they are polishing my turds.

    You're just an outlier in the data. Easily identified, easily filtered out...

    Coming up with a profile that is completely incorrect and undetectably so is far more difficult than just being random and contradictory.

  • by denzacar (181829) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:40PM (#43145673) Journal

    From TFA:

    The Williams Institute found that, overall, an estimated 8.2 percent of the population had engaged in some form same-sex sexual activity. Put another way, 4.7 percent of the population had wandered across the line without coming to think of themselves as either gay or bisexual.

    That same study found out that (from the same FA):

    just 1.7 percent of Americans between 18 and 44 identify as gay or lesbian, while another 1.8 percent -- predominantly women -- identify as bisexual.

    Basically, that "less than 2%" number is the people who think of themselves as being homosexual or bisexual.
    8.2% apparently just like having sex with people of the same sex. Clearly, they're not gay.
    Cause they don't identify with being gay.
    Cause it's all about identifying.

    That's why I always identify myself with Superman.

  • by thesandtiger (819476) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @01:31AM (#43146353)

    Yep.

    Any well designed social psych/sociology research project will have tons of ways to check for validity and consistency of data, and the more clever ones will even have ways of identifying the particular ways people will fuck with data and developing a partial profile there, too.

    The vast majority of the data will be a fairly accurate representation - the user base is so large that a few "clever" people trying to piss in the well won't have any effect - they aren't even a blip - while the rest of the userbase doesn't see much point in liking random things or going against the established function of the systems.

    As to the study itself - I think it will be interesting to see how the profile for any given demographic shifts over time as various things become more or less mainstream and more or less strongly associated with various demographic buckets.

  • by Zumbs (1241138) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @02:10AM (#43146485) Homepage

    8.2% apparently just like having sex with people of the same sex. Clearly, they're not gay. Cause they don't identify with being gay. Cause it's all about identifying.

    That is not what your quote is saying. It is saying that 8.2% of the population has at some point in their life experimented with same-sex sex. It does not say if they liked it nor if it was more than once. It is like going to Church a few times is not the same as being a Christian.

Egotist: A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me. -- Ambrose Bierce

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