Sputnik: What’s your conclusion with regard to the recently published report?
Sandra Matz: It’s possible to target people based on psychological traits using something as simple as a Facebook like, this is one thing. The second thing is that it’s really showing that by having this information available we can actually influence people’s feelings, so that we can influence the selloff quicker and then we can influence clients purchasing the product.
Sputnik: From your embedded knowledge, do you think Facebook likes can be used anywhere else besides sales, for instance in political advertising?
Sandra Matz: It’s not necessarily limited to Facebook. I mean we’ve just used Facebook likes aimed at influencing the personality, but you can use Twitter data, you can use browsing history, smartphone data, or credit card data. So, Facebook is not the only player that we see here. But it’s also the case that psychological targeting is not limited to product advertising. By that means you can also convince someone to vote for a certain candidate, to not vote at all, or to save more money by making this or that purchase. The main idea is it helps to convince people into doing something you want them to do.
Sputnik: Is there a risk of someone abusing data from people’s Facebook likes? We reported on Sputnik a couple of months ago on the cases where there were some algorithms misused by Facebook. What’s your take on whether the data can be misused by such gigantic companies like Facebook and Twitter?
Sandra Matz: I don’t think they are misusing the data themselves. The question we should be asking is what the purposes are, what psychological targeting is used for. If we are using the technology to cue people away from voting in an election, that’s certainly an abuse of the technology. This is all about making people do something which goes against their interests. In the same way, by giving people the chance to think by using their psychological traits, it automatically opens up the possibility of exploiting their weaknesses. So, for instance, if we know some personalities are more crunchy and impulsive, that opens the door for targeting people with, I don’t know, online casinos – something that plays with, or exploits their impulsive sides.
Sputnik: How can people be better protected from abuse of misinformation on social media platforms? What’s your point of view with regard to whether these companies should be regulated?
Sandra Matz: I don’t think that technology should be regulated. I think the purposes should be regulated, or rather the context in which we use those technologies. If we say that we don’t want psychological targeting to be used in the context of a political campaign and it is regulated by the law, that makes it a lot easier for Facebook than actually to try and evaluate the content, because it just limits it down from this massive amount of ads to something that is easier to oversee.
And something we are about to see in the next few months or years is “talented technologies.” So, if we are able to protect your personality from Facebook likes then we can clearly develop a technology to prevent that from happening.