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At this point, everyone knows that Facebook is pretty much like a peeping Tom who watches your every move from afar, gathering information about your interests, relationships, political affiliations, and more—only you basically signed up for this digital creeper, so it's kind of on you. However, Facebook's creator himself has recently admitted that the global social media network has dropped the ball when it comes to protecting users from breaches of data, or worse, election meddling. Following this trend of the not-so-harmless social network inching closer to Big Brother status, new studies have revealed that with a few likes, this computer program can fundamentally know you better than your friends, family, or even spouse.
A new report from CNN reveals that the Cambridge Analytica breach was pulling more than just the information people offered voluntarily on their profiles. The app, which Facebook granted permission for, was mining tons of data from our "likes," which, according to a 2013 study conducted by data scientists, could be used "automatically and accurately to predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes."
It's freaky enough when we're casually browsing retail sites and then switch over to Facebook or Instagram to find targeted ads for the exact pair of shoes we were just checking out. But this latest revelation reveals an even more unsettling reality. Turns out this algorithm is able to predict race with 95 percent accuracy, gender with 93 percent accuracy, sexual orientation with 88 percent accuracy, and political affiliation with 85 percent accuracy.
Additional research published by data scientist Michal Kosinski revealed that with 10 likes on Facebook, the program knows you better than a colleague; with 70 likes, it knows you better than a friend or roommate; 150 likes, better than a family member; and with 300 likes, data mined from your likes allegedly knows you better than your own spouse.
"If you're leaving digital breadcrumbs online and living a digital life, as all of us are, you're constantly giving data points. Our smartphones, our computers, our email, the big companies—Amazon, Google, Facebook—they're collecting data on us every single step of the way," Timothy Summers, director of innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement at the University of Maryland's College of Information Studies, told CNN.
While this may not be all that surprising to most of us at this point, what's unsettling is how deeply and intelligently data programs can then use this information to paint such a frighteningly accurate picture of our true personalities. While we can joke that with each day we are creeping closer and closer to living in a real life Black Mirror episode, this latest research proves that our dystopian digital futures are closer than we think.