Review: Track your digital footprint with Apply Magic Sauce

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as Lifestyles.

Soon-to-be alumni (and Hokies of all years) are preparing both mentally and academically to leave Blacksburg for the workforce, meaning resume revisions and overflowing email outboxes.

A crucial, often overlooked aspect of the job hunt is to clean up social media outlets to seem employable, and with the Business Horizons Career Fair coming up, this week is the prime time for cleaning and suiting up.

Apply Magic Sauce, a prediction engine developed by the University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre, is a prediction API (application program interface) that analyzes your digital footprint into a psychological profile using Facebook data. Storing personal data, Apply Magic Sauce utilizes likes, statuses, tweets, browsing data and open text to provide statistics on personality traits, intelligence, life satisfaction, political and religious views, sexuality and profession.

“Students have to be very careful on what you post on Facebook and how you are perceived,” said Bonnie Gilbert, assistant director of alumni relations at the Pamplin College of Business. “It’s fine to put some information up, and it’s important to be out there on Facebook to keep up with trends and where people are, and sometimes it’s the only way to find people.”

Available for research, business and personal use, the app asked for consent to access my Facebook digital footprint. Based purely on Facebook data, which limits the reach of analysis severely to those who are active users, caused feedback to be insufficient. My results were disappointing, often not matching up to my actual preferences or identifications.

My initial confidence in the application was quickly replaced by disappointment, starting with its lack of accuracy in major areas that might be obvious to another human user as opposed to an algorithm. However, this discrepancy could also provide insight into how my actual Facebook profile does not reflect myself.

“I wouldn’t mind using the application, not because I would be sketched out by it but because I don’t really care if they have my information,” said Esther Yi, a third-year engineering student. “A lot of people use apps like, ‘Who should you room with?’ and that takes their information, or they log into things using Facebook. I don’t really put any information out there.”

Though Apply Magic Sauce’s age guestimate was almost ten years off, and its political and religious orientations were also inaccurate, the analysis was interesting to see. Nevertheless, Gilbert advises students to avoid consenting personal data unless necessary.

“Only if you’re trying to project a certain image on Facebook and you need to know what you’re projecting from an outside source,” Gilbert said. “Employers do go out and look at your information, and that could be a deciding factor of whether you’re offered a position at their company or not.”

Despite the source, even if it is academic, such as the University of Cambridge, Gilbert advises to absolutely avoid applications of this nature.

The verdict: The information was brief and some parts even complimentary (I was told I was “more intelligent than 89 percent of the population”), but the site proved to be just another place for more of my personal information to be stored somewhere online with little return.

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