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​Michal Kosinski: Living in a post-privacy world

Algorithms that dig into our digital lives to predict behavior have become a hot topic. Michal Kosinski talks about the pros and cons of life in a hyper-connected world.

Illustration of smart devices with eyes

Who's better at predicting your behavior? Your computer or your spouse? | Illustration by Kevin Craft

Much has been made of the use of personal data gathered from social media and other channels to target voters during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, but what reasonable expectations should we have in age of ubiquitous and “free” connectivity?

That question is the research focus of Stanford’s Michal Kosinski, a professor of organizational behavior in the Graduate School of Business. Kosinski has a doctorate in psychology and applies his interests to study how algorithms leverage our electronic footprints — our digital posts, photos, likes, purchases, travels, searches and so forth — to predict, or even manipulate, how we will behave. He says that, given 200 of your ‘likes’ on Facebook, a computer algorithm is better at predicting how you will behave than your spouse.

While Kosinski says that 99% of such data analytics are used in good and positive ways, the remaining 1% is causing a lot of handwringing around the world. In this episode of “The Future of Everything” radio show, host Russ Altman and Michal Kosinski for a deep discussion of life is like in what Kosinski refers to as the “post-privacy world.”