Does This Facebook Analysis Tool Really Know You?

Today, there's no shortage of oddball Internet start-ups claiming to know how people read, socialize, and shop online. It's the new holy grail in advertising: If a marketer can understand your personality to the point where it can tailor ads to your specific needs, interests, and desires, digital commerce will be forever changed. Facebook already does this to the best of its ability.
But, how much usable data can those companies actually glean from your online life?
A California-based start-up called Five has launched a tool called Five Labs that claims to analyze your personality type by combing through your Facebook posts. The New York Times described it today: "[Five] analyzes the language in which we write, and determines our relative affiliation to five personality attributes: openness, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. It then shows comparisons with famous people (based on their public writings and statements), as well as your Facebook friends."
How could it not? I'm just like Bill Gates, you say? Oh, stop.
In order to arrive at this analysis, you enter your own or someone else's Facebook profile URL, and are soon presented with a pentagonal graph of personality traits. Here, for example, is our very own Leila Brillson's:
leilafivePhoto: Courtesy of Five.
There is some science behind these numbers, based on the research of Hansen Andrew Schwartz, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and an advisor to Five. The tool he's helped develop scours your Facebook posts for words aligned with each of the "big five" personality attributes, as depicted in these word clouds. The phrase "sick of" indicates a more neurotic personality, while "music" and "universe" suggest openness. Unsurprisingly, "fucking" is an indicator of less conscientious and less agreeable personalities.
But, what, exactly, do these percentages mean? It's not a pie chart, because the figures don't add up. "Those numbers are (effectively) percentiles," Five's cofounder Nikita Bier explained to me via email. Five employed a "large" sample of college students and people using Facebook ads to establish a baseline for these scores. That means that Leila's "24% Agreeableness" score, for example, is a comparison to other Facebook users, not an indication that's she's 76% disagreeable.
The good news, though, is that Five won't be handing over your personality charts to marketers anytime soon. "We don't have any plans to sell the data," says Bier. "It's purely educational."
Try Five Labs for yourself here. (The New York Times)

More from Pop Culture

We've been learning all sorts of surprising things about actresses' former lives lately. Last week, we discovered that Emily Blunt was almost a pop star. ...
Jennifer Aniston has not yet said a word about the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But that doesn't mean the world won't try to find meaning in ...
Elle Macpherson wishes she wasn't there for Friends. According to E!, Macpherson told Australia's TV Week that she regrets her five-episode stint on the...
Jeb Bush has been a Florida governor and a presidential candidate. His latest gig? Comedian, apparently. In an opening sketch for the Emmys, Jimmy ...
What do you remember about the '90s? Do you get misty-eyed thinking about the iconic couples of yesteryear (Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder; Gwyneth Paltrow ...
The only thing surprising about Wendy Williams's decision to weigh in on Brangelina's divorce is that it's taken her this long to do so. The TV host ...
Emma Watson's new short film on gender equality manages to both celebrate the obstacles women have overcome and remind viewers there's still a long way to ...
Sarah Hyland and her boyfriend, Dominic Sherwood, have been dating for quite a while, and it's time to make it official. Well, gift-wrap official, that is...
Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender have been dating for nearly two years after they met on the set of The Light Between Oceans. But the pair have ...
Kanye West is officially the King of Shade after the stunt he pulled in Nashville, the country capital, this weekend. The city also has close ties to one...
Brody Jenner put himself firmly on the side of the "All Lives Matter" campaign this weekend after applauding his friend's assertion that the recent police...
Been yearning for a Taylor Swift fix? You're in luck. The pop star has been keeping a semi-low profile as of late, but made an exception over the weekend...
Britney Spears headlined the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas Saturday, but as always brought the drama even in places she wasn't. Those places ...
Update: A 35-year-old man was arrested and jailed by Scotland Yard in relation to the theft of Pippa Middleton's photos, the BBC reports. He was arrested...