When Facebook users clicks on the ‘like’ button, they are not only approving a video, a friend’s status or a page, they are revealing more than they think about themselves to perfect strangers.
A team of researchers at the University of Cambridge have analysed 58,000 Facebook users’ Likes and were able to paint a very detailed picture of a given user with an accuracy rate of more than 80%, Cnet reports.
Passing each user’s Likes through their algorithms, researchers correctly guessed a user’s sexual orientation in 88% of cases. When identifying ethnicity there was a 95% success rate compared to 85% for political leanings.
“Likes represent a very generic class of digital records, similar to Web search queries, Web browsing histories, and credit card purchases,” the team of researchers said. “In contrast to these other sources of information, Facebook Likes are unusual in that they are currently publicly available by default.”
The researchers also warn users of misuse of these publicly available data. “Commercial companies, governmental institutions, or even one’s Facebook friends could use software to infer attributes such as intelligence, sexual orientation, or political views that an individual may not have intended to share,” they concluded. “One can imagine situations in which such predictions, even if incorrect, could pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life.”