Facebook ‘Likes’ may reveal more than you wish to share

The Right Click
"Likes" on Facebook may reveal personal information and past vices.

By now, most people know the basics of how to keep their private lives somewhat private on Facebook: don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss to read, keep your privacy settings set to ‘Friends Only,’ et cetera et cetera. But could something as innocuous as the brands and celebrities you ‘Like’ on the social network give away some very personal information, too?

A new report says yes.

According to a paper published this week on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, your Facebook ‘Likes’ can give a clear indication of your IQ, the marital status of your parents and more.

“And you can extract it very accurately – you can get my gender, race, political views, religion, sexual orientation, personality, IQ and so on,” Michal Kosinski, a University of Cambridge researcher who lead the study, told CBC.

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This PDF document breaks down what the ‘most predictive Likes’ are, and what they may say about you. Here’s a quick look at a few of them:

  • If you ‘like’ Mozart, The Colbert Report and Morgan Freeman’s Voice, you’re more likely to have a high IQ
  • If you ‘like’ Sephora, Harley Davidson and Bret Michaels, you’re more likely to have a low IQ
  • If you ‘like’ Beerpong, Chris Tucker and I Feel Better Tan, you’re more likely to be an extrovert
  • If you ‘like’ RPGs, Manga and Programming, you’re more likely to be shy and reserved
  • If you ‘like’ Kathy Griffin, Adam Lambert and Wicked the Musical, you’re more likely to be a homosexual male
  • If you ‘like’ WWE, Shaq and Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps, you’re more likely to be a heterosexual male
  • If you ‘like’ The L Word, Not Being Pregnant and Sometimes I Just Lay In Bed And Think About Life, you’re more likely to be a heterosexual female
  • If you ‘like’ Lipton Brisk, Foot Locker and I Just Realized Immature Spells I’m Mature, you’re more likely to be a heterosexual female
  • If you ‘like’ Austin Texas, Big Mommas Movies and Texting With Cold Hands Is Like Typing In Slow Motion, you’re more likely to be a drug user
  • If you ‘like’ Inside Jokes, Milkshakes and Wouldn’t It Be Ironic If You Choked On A Life Saver, you’re more likely to abstain from drug use

By default, Facebook ‘Likes’ are visible to everyone, and most people have a median of 68 ‘Likes.’ When a computer trained with the ‘Likes’ of thousands of volunteers went through Facebook profiles, it was able to accurately predict a user’s gender 93 per cent of the time, whether they were African-American or Caucasian 95 per cent of the time, whether they were Democrat or Republican 85 per cent of the time and how old the user was 75 per cent of the time.

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If you want to test it for yourself, the research group has set up a website, youarewhatyoulike.com, where you can login with your Facebook profile and see if it can accurately figure out some personal traits about you.

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