What does your digital footprint say about you? Not a lot in my case. When the Facebook scandal broke, a colleague despatched me a hyperlink to an algorithm created by Cambridge college’s Psychometrics Centre that claims to create psycho-demographic profiles from behaviour on Fb.

The software, given the mysterious title Apply Magic Sauce, was the unique inspiration for the work of Cambridge Analytica, the UK firm alleged to have misused knowledge from 50m Fb customers and helped Donald Trump win the US election.

Utilizing tens of 1000’s of volunteers who offered their Fb likes, demographic profiles and outcomes of psychometric checks, the creators of Apply Magic Sauce developed a mannequin that they are saying can precisely predict private attributes, together with sexual orientation, ethnicity and ranges of intelligence and happiness. Every part I’ve learn concerning the mannequin applauds its precision; the authors themselves declare it reveals that “individuals’s personalities might be predicted robotically and with out involving human social-cognitive expertise”.

And but, once I used it, it returned a profile of somebody I didn’t recognise. For starters, the check means that I’ve the profile of a 37-year-old, which is fallacious, if reasonably pleasing. It additionally means that I’ve a 99 per cent likelihood of being a person, which is fallacious and miserable.

I exploit Fb to be in contact with pals and remind myself of their birthdays, which the social community helpfully flags. I exploit Twitter for work and to touch upon occasions or articles that I learn. None of that ought to say very a lot about my character.

Apply Magic Sauce throws up 5 large character traits, some proper, others not fairly. I’m, in keeping with the check, one thing of a robotic who thrives on organisation, and an earnest traditionalist who works steadily in the direction of my objectives.

The mess on my desk suggests in any other case. So it strikes me that my digital character could also be an exaggeration of my actual character, extra what I wish to be (except the gender prediction) than what I’m.

Perhaps I’m an aberration. But it surely may be the case that these instruments which have spurred a profitable area of interest trade are extra hype than substance. When a pal whose intelligence I take into account to be properly above common took the check, she fared no higher than I did. She was handled to an offensive message: “Individuals with the same digital footprint to you are likely to have a median degree of intelligence. In fact there’s nonetheless an opportunity you might be smarter than the common individual, however merely pondering that you’re will sadly not change our prediction.” What I’m pondering is that these fashions should not as correct judges as they fake to be.


Over the previous week, I’ve been contemplating breaking apart with Fb, however the truth that I doubt its effectiveness in serving to Mr Trump’s election. The social community clearly has little respect for its customers’ knowledge and its delayed apology for the Cambridge Analytica controversy rings hole.

I’m in good firm: #deleteFacebook is gaining traction on Twitter, and tech personalities like Elon Musk are becoming a member of the protest. Nonetheless, I think that I’ll find yourself sticking with Fb and that almost all of its different 2.2bn customers will too, both as a result of they don’t seem to be as conscious of privateness considerations or as a result of privateness is much less necessary to them than the usefulness of the social community.

Outdoors the western world, social media platforms might be the one public house the place free expression and organisation can happen. As for me, I can dwell with out Fb however not with out WhatsApp or Instagram, each of that are sadly additionally owned by the social community.

In any case, the selection shouldn’t be between deleting Fb or sticking with it. As my colleagues have written, there are methods to guard our knowledge, by opting out of focused advertising and enhancing linked apps. Fb customers ought to mobilise — however to enhance reasonably than destroy the positioning. As an alternative of #deleteFacebook, allow us to go for #regulateFacebook. Tech corporations have been working in a Wild West for too lengthy, minting cash and rising more and more boastful. It’s time we, the customers, demand policing.

roula.khalaf@ft.com

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