Facebook “Likes” Create a Digital Fingerprint

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A recent study by the University of Cambridge found that you can gain a lot of information by looking at a user’s Facebook “likes.” And we’re not just talking about their favorite TV shows. Researchers analyzed 58,000 Facebook users and discovered that “intimate personal attributes can be predicted with high levels of accuracy from ‘traces’ left by seemingly innocuous digital behaviour, in this case Facebook Likes.”

What’s that mean for you? Maybe nothing. But there’s the possibility than an ambitious marketer could cross-reference the minutiae of your Facebook activity to determine, with a high level of accuracy, your political or religious affiliation. Not a big deal; many people share that information publicly, or at least with close friends. But what about your IQ, or if you are likely to have a substance abuse problem? You might not want advertisers (or anyone) to know you’re not the brightest bulb or are battling an addiction.

What Your “Likes” Say About You

Facebook has always been a hot topic for privacy guardians, but it turns out that the issue runs much deeper than apps requiring scores of personal data. Advertisers have long had access to your likes, but with the right analysis, they can gain insight into what you’re not saying or liking as well. For example, a wedding photographer can easily target women who like bridal magazine pages and recently changed their relationship status to engaged. But what if they can use other psychographic information to target women who have divorced parents and play to those emotions? Or determine wealth and gear ads toward individual budgets?

I’ve always been a huge fan of Facebook and use the site both for work and fun, but not everyone understands what they are getting into when they sign up. Facebook is designed to make you want to share about yourself in order to connect with friends more easily, particularly with the new Graph Search rolling out widely. But the real reason Facebook wants you to share is to make money off of you from advertisers.

Reading Between The “Likes”

Does that mean you shouldn’t “like” that movie you just saw? No. But tread carefully, and watch the ads that follow you around. You might be surprised at what you see. Because if Target can determine pregnancy before a doctor, what will Facebook learn before you do?

Above are 3 ads I was targeted with recently: a shopping site showing workout wear,  a Vegas hotel, and 1-800-contacts. I have been training for a race and buying workout clothes recently, and I frequently visit Vegas hotel pages for research and like quite a few of them. But I have no idea how Facebook knows I wear contact lenses. There is nothing in my profile mentioning glasses or contacts.

No Comments

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI