Bede McCarthy and Robert Cookson /Financial Times
The increasing amount of personal information that can be gleaned by computer programs that track how people use Facebook has been revealed by an extensive academic study.
Such programs can discern undisclosed private information such as Facebook users’ sexuality, drug-use habits and even whether their parents separated when they were young, according to the study by the University of Cambridge academics.
In one of the biggest studies of its kind, scientists from the university’s psychometrics team and a Microsoft-funded research centre analysed data from 58,000 Facebook users to predict traits and other information that were not provided in their profiles.
The algorithms were 88 per cent accurate in predicting male sexual orientation, 95 per cent for race and 80 per cent for religion and political leanings. Personality types and emotional stability were also predicted with accuracy ranging from 62-75 per cent.
Facebook declined to comment.