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Apply Magic Sauce uses Facebook data to build psychological profiles

Academics at Cambridge University creates an app that generates a psychological report based on their data in social media sites

  • Key4Communications

The trail of data you leave in your wake when surfing the web can be used to map your psychological profile. Academics at Cambridge University have created Apply Magic Sauce, a piece of API software that generates a psychological report on the subject based on their Facebook likes, as well as data from other social media sites.

Set up in 2011, it is now being accessed by 60,000-70,000 people per day. Vesselin Popov is a development strategist at Cambridge University's Psychometrics Centre, and works on Apply Magic Sauce with colleagues Bartosz Kielczewski, David Stillwell and Michal Kosinski. "It started when David developed a Facebook app called myPersonality, which allowed users to take psychometric tests," he explained.

"He collected data on six million individuals, and using this Michal developed the predictive algorithms that translate digital footprints of behaviour into psycho-demographic profiles."

Yes, apparently it was as easy as that. Now Apply Magic Sauce is used by a wide range of individuals, businesses and research organisations, with 33 different publications having been put together using anonymous data samples from the system.

Vesselin said the results can be enlightening. "I think it's important for people to realise they do give away information about themselves online" he said. "Nothing you do happens in isolation. People are more aware of it now in terms of privacy, but the system can help show what information online says about an individual so that they don't end up mispresenting themselves."

For businesses, Vesselin hopes Apply Magic Sauce will be used to ensure firms use data more wisely. "It would be good to see more firms moving away from the current standard behaviour, which is to collect as much information about as many people as possible within the letter of the law without really giving any consideration to why they're doing it" he said.

"Companies need to be doing more with the information they have, because this would allow them offer a standard service, but one which is personalised for the user."

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