What information about YOU is out there, via Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, waiting to haunt you?

Image: Lots and lots of info. Credits to Quim Gil (license: CC BY-SA 2.0 license).



What information did they steal from you?



“Shocking report: The Facebook truth” is a three part series revealing the shocking facts about Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, and how you can protect yourself against them and other corporate privacy cyber predators.

What to do with a brain if you had one: Crank up some Psychographics!


Once the information was obtained from “This is your Digital Life” app users and their friends, Kogan’s job (or is it GSR?) was to develop an algorithm following Cambridge Analytica needs, since Cambridge University refused to let them use its data for commercial purposes.

Kogan’s algorithm (or is it GSR?), should use all the data gathered to describe the personality, values, interests, and lifestyles of the those investigated, what marketers and psychologists call a Psycho-graphic study of said individuals. One of the bases of such study is a research by Youyou, Kosinski and Stillwell, that concludes that “computer judgments of people’s personalities based on their digital footprints are more accurate and valid than judgments made by their close others or acquaintances.”

So, what we are talking here is the creation of a detailed psychological profile of YOU, to see ways to either sell you something or micro-target you with ads going from politics to cat food.

Based on this last paragraph, and the turmoil created by the media around this affair, it seems fair to know what information has Facebook (and very likely the other players in this game) about you.

Well, to find you can log in to you Facebook account, look for the tab called settings and click on it. Then, where it says “Download a copy of your Facebook data” click again.

Facebook even has a page titled “Accessing Your Facebook Data” to help you in the process. Nonchalantly it says that your Timeline “contains posts…along with comment and other interactions from people… messages and chat conversations…photos and videos… the adds you have clicked, logging IP addresses…and more”.

Being the controlling and organized lads they are, Facebook has even categorized the information that it has about. Oh, that’s a nice tongue in chick gesture you are making there! In fact, Facebook tells you to begin with, that you initially provided all the basic information, and that the rest is based on YOUR activity while at their platform.

Here is: what they have about you:

your name and name changes, relationships you have, work, education, gender, political and religious views, hometown, current address and previous ones, photos, videos you posted, dates when your account was activated/deactivated/disabled/deleted, your birthday; IP addresses, time, date, devices used, cookies, browser information; all the ads you have clicked, as well as the title, the date and the time when you clicked on them; likes (yours and theirs or on sites off Facebook), friends that you say are family members, apps you have added; your alternate names (aliases, nicknames a maiden name); a complete history of your conversations; people you like, RSVPs to events; purchases made through Facebook and the credit card numbers you have used; people you don’t like anymore; your email addresses, even the removed ones; your face recognized by AI (Creepy!), metadata uploaded with your photos; quotes you like; followers and people you follow; list of your friends; your logins and logouts; messages sent and received by you; established networks (school, college, work, interests, etc.), notification preferences, your phone numbers; your privacy settings; your searches on Facebook; languages that you speak, and the list goes on.

Aside from the usual information that people usually give away from themselves, like name, date of birth, etc., when looking to participate in a platform like Facebook, there is much more information that you are giving away when you actually interact in said platform. Each time you hit a like, make an invitation, share a comment, upload a group of pictures and funny videos, you are showing more of your inner self that what you really think.

If you do check your profile/information in Facebook, there is section called “Ad Preferences”, with a category called “Your Information”., with a sub-category called “Your Categories”, and a sub-section called “US Politics”. There you can find if you have been labeled as “Very Liberal, Liberal, Moderate, Conservative or Very Conservative”. According to Fox News, Facebook fills those categories about you with the information you continuously provide to Facebook.

In fact, and this is where it all began, you’re exposing yourself to a bunch of scientists, researchers, behavioral analysts, psychologists, and a cadre of marketers, revealing what your true personality is like (or so they say). It is all well summarized in a Stanford University and Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Center joint study called “my Personality project” which used another app called “myPersonality” (released in June 2007) to give its users feedback about themselves, and about others. The researchers say “…nearly half of them have allowed us to anonymously record the information stored on their Facebook profiles…”

According to researchers, the myPersonaity app results were being used “across social sciences to research topics such as music personality, addictive substance use… association between personality and web browsing… the personality of FB and Twiteer users, the privacy settings used by certain types of people… and whether well-being can be measured with status updates… and the structure of FB Likes and their relationship to individuals’ behaviour”.

Very kosher so far. Now bring in the marketers, that is, those who have as their business model profiting from using users’ data. Did someone mention Cambridge Analytica? Well, Cambridge University’s Psychometric Center did not want to share their information with them. So, the company stroke a business deal with Dr. Kogan (mentioned in the first part of this series of article, read more (here)) or with his company GSR, and he built a similar app for them (circa 2014).

Needless to say, all hell broke lose when more intricate details of the data harvesting were released, and how Cambridge Anlaytica ultimately used that information.

But how did they use it?

To make it easy to understand, psychologists use what is called the FFM (five factor model) or Big Five personality traits to describe aspects of a personality. FFM has been around since 1961, but was actually set in motion in 1990 by Professor Lewis Goldberg of the Oregon Research Institute.

FFM states that our personality traits eventually come to form part of our language, and they can be encoded in a single word. Hence, FFM can describe who you are just by using a survey (such a myPersonality or This is my digital Life app tests) to which statistical analysis is applied. The beauty of it is that it makes its predictions based in descriptors (words) to suggest that everybody can be described by five factors: Openness to experience (emotion and curiosity), Conscientiousness (self discipline and planning), Extraversion (stimulation), Agreeableness (friendliness, compassionate) and Neuroticism (stress, anxiety), or OCEAN for short.

If you read between the lines, what is at stake here is YOUR privacy. And if the manipulation part of your psychographic profile is a real threat (like the researchers have hinted in their studies in spite of the many dissenters), then you are surrendering yourself to the dictates of large corporations.

So, how can YOU protect yourself against this huge privacy invasion?

Well, that the topic of the next article in this series.

Read the next part by clicking here.