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We’ve only just realised the huge power and value of our data

We have been giving away everything

We have been giving away everything

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In 2007, Facebook was only a few years old. Millions of people around the world were rushing to the platform, quick to show off intimate aspects of their lives to their friends. Few realised that their interactions with a website could be such a valuable asset or be so revealing.

It was around this time that David Stillwell, a recent psychology graduate, set up the Facebook personality quiz app myPersonality, which gathered data on how users mapped to the Big Five personality traits. Back then, Facebook could do no wrong. But things have changed.

Now, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, people are realising that their personal data is valuable and must be protected.

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Last year, research from the myPersonality team showed how people on Facebook are more susceptible to adverts that are tailored to their psychological traits. Across 3.5 million people, the team found that those targeted in this way were 40 per cent more likely to click on an advert and 50 per cent more likely to make a purchase.

Facebook doesn’t allow targeting directly based on psychological traits, but by finding correlations between things people have “liked” on the platform and traits, it is possible to switch between the two. In other words, a data set like that gathered by myPersonality is the tool you need to make this all happen.

It’s still not clear if this is enough to sway an election, for example, but even a small effect amplified by social media to millions of people may have a significant impact.

People sign up to apps like myPersonality for fun and few read the terms and conditions, just trusting that their data will be safe. Once, this may have seemed like a reasonable approach. But again, things have changed.

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–Credit: New Scientist – Home

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