Facebook's tendency to leak private information and photos has gotten the company in hot water, but the controversies may be missing a larger point. The service is all about sharing personal tastes and interests in a public forum, and the collective public musings can tell you a lot about the service's users.
How much? A new study has paired a personality profile with a datamining of people's "likes" on Facebook and has found that the likes collectively tell us some remarkably specific things about political views, personality traits, happiness, drug use, and so on. On its own, the study doesn't tell us anything shocking, but it provides some amusement value when the authors dive into their numbers and find out what items were specifically correlated with what traits. Which is how we find out that fans of curly fries probably outscored Sephora users on their SATs.
The work comes out of the myPersonality project, which has created a Facebook app that gives users a basic test of their psychological traits. If the users permit it, the researchers also get access to their Facebook profile and history of using the service to formally "like" something. At the time that the analysis in this study was done, the authors had data on nearly 60,000 users.