Our digital profiles tell something about us. They are our subjective presentation of who we are. Our digital presence says something about us. It is the largely objective measure of who we really are. Said more simply, you can’t hide your real self in the digital world.

The source of today’s discussion is a this podcast from Radio New Zealand that is an interview with one author of a study titled Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior. His name is Michal Kosinski. His co-authors on the study are David Stillwell and Thore Graepel.

Here is the abstract of the published study:

“We show that easily accessible digital records of behavior, Facebook Likes, can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender. The analysis presented is based on a dataset of over 58,000 volunteers who provided their Facebook Likes, detailed demographic profiles, and the results of several psychometric tests. The proposed model uses dimensionality reduction for preprocessing the Likes data, which are then entered into logistic/linear regression to predict individual psychodemographic profiles from Likes. The model correctly discriminates between homosexual and heterosexual men in 88% of cases, African Americans and Caucasian Americans in 95% of cases, and between Democrat and Republican in 85% of cases. For the personality trait “Openness,” prediction accuracy is close to the test–retest accuracy of a standard personality test. We give examples of associations between attributes and Likes and discuss implications for online personalization and privacy.”

Source: Kosinsky, M., Stillwell, D., And Graepel, T. Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior. Abstract. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. vol. 110 no. 15 > Michal Kosinski,  5802–5805, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1218772110

We doubt that this is the kind of science and analysis that is represented in the “tests’ we take online to reveal to us what ‘Disney Princess’ we are or ‘What Percentage Asshole We Are.’ The net of this research is that our internet and social media behavior is a really good indicator of some our personality traits and predictor of future behavior.

So if you haven’t already, think about the implications. From a marketer perspective – from the sociological perspective of what these means in the development of human civilization. For example:

From analysis of 30 likes our gender can be predicted with ~75% accuracy and our age with ~67% accuracy. And that’s just Facebook! There is very strong correlation in the prediction many variables like religion, political views,  and relationship status. The volume of digital data that is accumulated about us is huge. And growing. Let’s just do our best to make sure that as consumers, as marketers, as human beings we use it responsibly.

Q1) How do you think the ‘digital you’ compares to the ‘real you’?

Q2) Which ‘you’ is the ‘real’ you? Why?

Q3) Given that data can now predict so much about us, what are the implications for marketers?

Q4) Do you think the data, knowledge and power available to/about us being put to good use?

Q5) How does our digital self move or blur the line of privacy?

Q6) Serious question: What are the implications of all this in the context of our society?