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The Internet Knows You Better Than Your Spouse Does

The Internet Knows You Better Than Your Spouse Does

The traces we leave on the Web and on our digital devices can give advertisers and others surprising, and sometimes disturbing, insights into our psychology. Examining the psychological profile that the algorithm derives from your online traces can certainly be entertaining. On the other hand, the algorithm’s ability to draw inferences about us illustrates how easy it is for anyone who tracks our digital activities to gain insight into our personalities—and potentially invade our privacy. What is more, psychological inferences about us might be exploited to manipulate, say, what we buy or how we vote. It seems that our like clicks by themselves can be pretty good indicators of what makes us tick. In 2015 David Stillwell and Youyou Wu, both at the University of Cambridge, and Michal Kosinski of Stanford University demonstrated that algorithms can evaluate what psychologists call the Big Five dimensions of personality quite accurately just by examining a Facebook user’s likes. These dimensions—openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism—are viewed as representing the basic dimensions of personality. The degree to which they are present in individuals describes who those people are. If you enjoy computerized personality tests, you might consider visiting Apply Magic Sauce (https://applymagicsauce.com). The Web site prompts you to enter some text you have written—such as e-mails or blogs—along with information about your activities on social media. You do not have to provide social media data, but if you want to do it, you either allow Apply Magic Sauce to access your Facebook and Twitter accounts or follow directions for uploading selected data from those sources, such as your history of pressing Facebook’s “like” buttons. Once you click “Make Prediction,” you will see a detailed psychogram, or personality profile, that includes your presumed age and sex, whether you are anxious or easily stressed, how quickly you give in to impulses, and whether you are politically and socially conservative or liberal.

Photo by Leon Bublitz on Unsplash
The Internet Knows You Better Than Your Spouse Does
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