You Are What You 'Like' on Facebook

Scientists find smart people like curly fries, liberals like ... cuddling

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 12, 2013 4:07 AM CDT | Updated Mar 12, 2013 6:16 AM CDT

(Newser) – The race, sexual orientation, political leanings, and many other personal details about Facebook users can be revealed with a stunning degree of accuracy by analyzing their "likes," according to new research. Experts using data from 58,000 volunteers created a program that could spot gay men 88% of the time, tell black people from white people 95% of the time, and even detect smokers with 75% accuracy, ScienceNews reports. The links weren't always obvious: People who "liked" cuddling tended to have left-leaning politics, while fans of curly fries tended to be more intelligent than average.

"I appreciate automated book recommendations, or Facebook selecting the most relevant stories for my newsfeed," the lead researcher says. "However, I can imagine situations in which the same data and technology is used to predict political views or sexual orientation, posing threats to freedom or even life." He recommends that those concerned about privacy start by adjusting their settings on Facebook, which makes "likes" public by default.

A sign with Facebook's "Like" logo is posted at Facebook headquarters near the office for the company's User Operations Safety Team in Menlo Park, Calif.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
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Sharing individual likes or pages might not seem hugely intrusive, but it allows individuals to be categorized and behavior predicted in areas that are far more personal and sensitive than people realize. - Big Brother Watch chief Nick Pickles

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