What you like on Facebook can determine whether or not you get a job.
The New York Times reports that a new study shows computer models can determine your character based on your Facebook likes. Seems innocuous enough, but that also means that anyone, including potential employers, who can see your Facebook likes can make a judgment on your personality (and whether they want to hire you).
Dr. Michal Kosinski, one of the authors of the study, claims the models have “the potential to completely change how we see the job market.” Each applicant could get a computer-generated personality profile based on their online interests, which potential employers could sift through for applicants whose profiles fit the needs of their companies. Kosinski explains that instead of sorting through resumes and cover letters, “You basically reach out to two or three people that match your profile.”
Of course, that has the potential to be terrible. Don Peck told The Times, “Should job candidates be ranked by what their Web habits say about them? Should the ‘data signature’ of natural leaders play a role in promotion? These are all live questions today, and they prompt heavy concerns: that we will cede one of the most subtle and human of skills, the evaluation of the gifts and promise of other people, to machines; that the models will get it wrong; that some people will never get a shot in the new workforce.”
Legal professor Danielle Citron added, “What concerns me,” she said in an interview, “is the potential for keeping people’s assessments and scores in ways that have a much more lasting effect, can be merged, and then analyzed and propagated in ways that aren’t accountable.” Citron also noted, “There’s also people whose personalities may have some negative implications, like they’re very absent-minded or they have short attention spans. It’s not always a good story for everybody … With a psychological assessment that is automated and based on a digital footprint, anyone could potentially assess your personality without asking your permission.”
There are certain ways around this, like blocking your Facebook page from showing up in search engines (go to their privacy settings page to set that up). But that may not help, either: Law professor Don R. Peppet says, “Let’s say employers routinely started asking for your Facebook information because they wanted to be able to look at your Likes and assess your personality, and you’re the one person in the group who says no: the fact that you won’t reveal it is itself revealing about you, and people start to draw inferences based on that refusal.”