The Big Five Inventory test is typically used in psychology to determine a person’s personality type based on how much or little they exemplify each of the five factors: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The test, however, may soon be replaced by a content analysis of a person’s social media activities.
A team of researchers in Asia discovered that people’s interactions on social media (how often they posted status updates, what pronouns they use, emotional sentiment) are just as indicative of their personality type as Big Five test scores.
This is where things get interesting. To conduct a Big Five Inventory personality test, researchers would have to get people to:
With our personalities accurately presented front and centre across social networks, however, social scientists, academics and marketers alike could plausibly bypass traditional research protocol and head straight to Twitter and Facebook for their data collection. Of course, this would be highly unethical, but to assume this wouldn’t occur would also be highly naïve.
This discovery is particularly troubling when you consider how entrenched social media is within modern society. Conversations surrounding online privacy will have to extend beyond questions of who can access our web history and where our data is being sent to include whether our personality can be detected.
As consumers it is our responsibility to safeguard ourselves online. Although open profiles and public conversations facilitate the free-flow of information across the Internet, they may soon prove to be detrimental, and even harmful, to our individual privacy. It’s one thing for consumers to be targeted by marketers based on their demographic profiles; it’s quite another for them to be targeted – unknowingly – based on their personality.
Needless to say, now sounds like a pretty good time to take a look at your privacy settings.