There’s an old saying that goes a little something like “you never really know someone until you live with them.” Well, it’s becoming clear that Facebook might just know you better than all your housemates, relatives, and friends combined. It appears that the company has the resources to narrow down and define your personality, based solely on the pages, status updates, and photos that you “like.”
A study recently conducted and published by teams of researchers from the University of Cambridge and Stanford University found that the social media site possesses enough personal information about you and your tastes based on what you voluntarily ‘like.’
The study asked participants to fill out personality tests, and also asked their close friends and family members to complete personality assessments of the individual. Those test results were compared to a personality profile constructed from Facebook “likes” for music, movies, books, brands, and a variety of other taste indicators.
On average, researchers found that Facebook users had about 227 individual “likes” each, which was more than enough information to allow a computer to determine each participant’s personality better than the participants themselves, and better than every friend and family member (save for the person’s spouse/partner).
It’s this type of information processing that businesses have been using for quite some time for the purpose of creating ad campaigns to reach target audiences. Although it doesn’t appear that Facebook has been using personal “like” data for their own purposes (yet), simply knowing that Facebook has the ability to use all of this recorded data — and make money off of it — is enough to worry some people.
Where exactly should businesses and social media sites draw the line between harmless, profitable data and privacy invasions? Is this a sign that computers could quickly become more powerful and knowledgeable than real people?
“I believe people will generally reveal more about themselves to their computer, than they would a friend or family member, and understand that their interests create targeted advertisements directed at them,” says Matt Harding, President, Durrani Design. “These advertisements may not completely bother online users but I think there is still the importance of traditional print advertising that delivers that personal feel.”
Perhaps this kind of data storage and usage is something that internet users will desperately want to regulate and protect in the future, but it could also give businesses and consumers the ability to interact on a more meaningful level.
Either way, if you happen to be a more secretive person and enjoy having a sense of mystery about you, you might want to pay extra attention to all of those “likes” from now on.