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Is Our Online Privacy at Risk?

Magic Privacy Sauce

A new Prediction API can analyse your personality just by looking at your Facebook Likes.

Something that is becoming a very common concern, as we plaster ourselves over every social media site, is how much of this is private? And even more worryingly, how much can a potential employer work out about us just from our online presence?


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I comforted myself for a long time by saying that my employers don’t have Facebook. But they probably do and as many as 50% admit to using it during their recruitment stages. Many employers have rejected applicants based on comments on their page relating to racism, drugs or heavy alcohol abuse and have even cut out a few based on their pictures being a touch too sexy.

At the University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre they have developed an API called ‘Apply Magic Sauce.’ Currently, users have to sign up for it to have access, but it is able to put together a pretty good picture only by viewing your Facebook Likes, which isn't necessarily one of the most private elements on your profile.

The website says:

“Our research has proven that clicking a link or sharing a photo can also mean sharing your most private and intimate desires with the world. Seemingly innocuous online behaviour therefore contains a wealth of personal information, representing an enormous opportunity for companies to profile and target individuals however they like.”

‘Apply Magic Sauce’ is not fantastically accurate, especially considering the fact I've been “liking” pages since I was 14. It guessed my age wrong but only by 4 years, it was nearly a 50-50 toss-up between my gender and it guessed my relationship status wrong: I was pretty much single, barring the 17% of me that’s married.

So far it seems like a good idea, but it is limited. It could tell me things a CV would probably be able to, including the fact I was 66% intelligent and a liberal Christian.

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The idea of ‘reversing the monopoly’ to learn about your own online presence would be beneficial for many people. We all try to make correct use of Facebook’s privacy settings and the new feature that allows you to look at your page from someone else’s point of view, but at the end of the day, it’s too easy to slip up.

However, I don’t think that the answer should be trying to hide from employers. But instead, we should be thinking about what we are posting or liking in the first place. The world of social media is massive and pretty new in the grand scheme of things, the effects could be crippling for us if we’re not careful. When employers have a new tool to cut out the middle man in recruitment, then why shouldn't they use it?

Megan Herdson
Megan is a country girl who moved to the city with some big dreams. She is studying her MA in Creative Writing whilst also managing an American Football Team.  She loves her blog and wants nothing more than to have her words read. That and to win the Championship, obviously. Follow her @MeganAtSMF
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Is Our Online Privacy at Risk? Reviewed by Megan Herdson on Tuesday, March 03, 2015 Rating: 5
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