The Internet knows you all too well

In the age of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s not shocking knowing that what you’ve ‘liked’ on Facebook is all that machine learning algorithms need to predict your personality type.
  • In 2013, it was learned that machine-learning techniques made it possible to accurately predict someone’s personality type simply from their Facebook likes. Just nine likes are enough to predict your personality traits as well as a colleague could. With 65 likes, as well as a friend. With 125 likes, as well as a family member.
  • Most people have around 225 likes, so organizations that possess this sort of data can predict your personality as well as a spouse could.
  • Not only that, it only takes a few Facebook likes to predict your age, gender, intelligence, sexuality, political and religious views, relationship status and a host of other things. In short, the internet knows just what pushes your buttons.
  • Why is that a big deal? For marketers, discovering someone’s characteristics to any great degree typically involved asking them to fill out a questionnaire, making it impractical. But if it can be done automatically, our psychologies are laid bare. Even your Twitter account can be analysed, your personality predicted from your tweets.
  • What this means for us is that we can be hacked, manipulated, persuaded or encouraged with greater ease. A study conducted by the University of Cambridge on 3.5 million people showed that those targeted with online advertising based solely on a single Facebook like were 40% more likely to click on an online advert and 50% more likely to follow through with a purchase than those seeing untailored advertising.
When such messaging can be scaled to target millions at the press of a button, and with no regulatory oversight, that for some is an alarming degree of influence. Nudges at vast scales might sway democracies. The power balance is weighted towards those who hold the data, and we really don’t know how it’s being used.

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