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Can research prove the accuracy of a social media profile?

07.05.2013
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fake_online_dating_profilesIt's become increasingly well known that what we read online has a big impact on our decisions.  It is commonplace for instance for us to hunt down the reviews of others before we choose a restaurant or pick a movie to watch, and those reviews are influential enough to be spawning a big industry in faking the perceptions created of companies online.

What about individuals though?  With the whole personal branding thing taking off, it's increasingly important for individuals to portray themselves in a strong light online, with organisations increasingly turning to online research before hiring employees and contractors.  How can we verify that what we see online is accurate though?

Researchers from the famous PARC in Palo Alto believe they may have some answers.  They looked in the place that arguably kick started the social networking world we see today.  Online dating has mushroomed from its early days around 2000 into an industry worth nearly $2 billion a year.

Being able to trust the information people post about each other goes to the crux of the online dating world.  If you can't rely on the person actually being a reasonable representation of who they claim to be, then the whole thing kinda falls apart.

The PARC researchers utilised social network data to help verify what people posted about themselves.  They developed an app that connects their dating profile with their Facebook page (other social networks are available).  The app then compared the data between the two profiles.  If it was largely the same, the profile became certified.

They believe that this is a strong defence against dodgy profiles because Facebook profiles are already heavily peer reviewed.  “For instance, if a user is listed as “in a relationship” on Facebook, it would be cumbersome to change her status to “single”, as friends and, most embarrassingly, the user’s partner would likely notice this change,” they point out.

The new system is known as Certifeye, and it has already been tested in a real world setting.  Of course, one could argue that the likes of Klout and Kred are already doing this kind of thing in a professional sense, but with online reputations increasingly important, it nevertheless represents an interesting move to help us gain confidence in what we read online.