"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Facebook knows what you like…because you told it

What does it mean to hit the “like” button for an article that discusses how “liking things on Facebook” reveals much more about you than you think?

Earlier in the week a study appeared in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences wherein the researchers found that the things that Facebook users “like” can help create a very detailed image of a given individual. Even if a person does not outright state certain things, given enough “likes” a heck of a lot can be accurately inferred.

To quote from AP reporter Raphael Satter’s article on the topic (which was cross posted at Huffington Post):

“The study found that Facebook likes were linked to sexual orientation, gender, age, ethnicity, IQ, religion, politics and cigarette, drug, or alcohol use. The likes also mapped to relationship status, number of Facebook friends, as well as half a dozen different personality traits.”

This study has received a fair amount of coverage already this week, and in the coverage I’ve read I have been far more surprised by people’s surprise than by any of the findings of the actual study.

Though, for a good short write up I highly recommend “You Won’t Like What Your Facebook ‘Likes’ Reveal” by Adi Kamadar and Dave Maass(posted at the Electronic Frontier Foundation website), particularly as it suggests steps that can be taken by those who find the study unsettling.

And yet the thing that I find most interesting and amusing is the below screen cap, which I took from Satter’s article posted at the Huffington Post (at 9:13 PM [EST] on Thursday March 14, 2013):

like zoom with arrow

Please note the arrow pointing to the “Like” total. The relevant area is enlarged below:


And thus I shall restate: What does it mean to hit the “like” button for an article that discusses how “liking things on Facebook” reveals much more about you than you think?

Frankly, I’m not sure what it means. I don’t have enough data points to correlate it all and spit out a perfect approximation of these people so that I can target ads at them. But Facebook does. And now Facebook has one more data point about these people.

I wanted to end this short post on a funny note, and so here it is:



It’s not the same picture (screencap was taken minutes before I posted this). It has even more “likes” now.


About Z.M.L

“I do not believe that things will turn out well, but the idea that they might is of decisive importance.” – Max Horkheimer @libshipwreck

2 comments on “Facebook knows what you like…because you told it

  1. matthewjudebrown
    March 15, 2013

    No shit! When you tell Facebook you like something, you’re telling them that you like it! This is surprising?

  2. Pingback: “More than machinery we need humanity” – The NSA, Verizon, Prism, and You | LibrarianShipwreck

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