Before Cambridge Analytica 'research' was 'gay' face and 'personality' studies


In a 2018 interview, the Stanford professor of organisational behaviour Michal Kosinski discussed his research, which included a controversial and widely debunked 2017 study claiming that his algorithms could distinguish gay and straight faces; a 2013 study of 58,000 people that explored the relationship between Facebook Likes and psychological and demographic characteristics;  and the myPersonality project, which collected data on 6 million people via a personality quiz that went viral on social media and asked respondents for permission to donate their results to academic research. In May 2018, the quiz-generated dataset was discovered left open to the public on GitHub; for four years anyone could have accessed it. During that time about 280 researchers used it for research filling more than 100 academic papers, including Kosinski's 2013 study. Kosinski's research methods attracted the interest of the Russian cabinet and were later copied by Cambridge Analytica parent SCL Group, which tried to buy the myPersonality data and, after failing to do so, employed Cambridge psychologist Aleksandr Kogan to build a new one.

Writer: Paul Lewis
Publication: Guardian

Related learning resources
Target Profile