When “Likes” Can Shed Light

Facebook users’ patterns of “Likes” on the social-networking site can unintentionally expose political and religious views, drug use, divorce and sexual orientation, researchers said Monday.

A study of 58,000 U.S. Facebook users, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, arises from an emerging discipline in which experts sift through extremely large digital data sets, such as collections of web searches or Twitter messages, for subtle patterns and relationships. It highlights the power and risks of digital demographics, which are the key to targeted online advertising, experts said.

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