Facebook’s Generation Y nightmare

[I]n 2015 no one will be dumb enough to write on his Facebook wall something like “Gee, bad week ahead, I’m heading to my third chemotherapy session”. But Narrative Data is able to pinpoint anyone’s health problems by weaving together language patterns. For instance, it pores over health forums where people talk, openly but anonymously, about their conditions. By analysing millions of words, Narrative Data has mapped what it calls Health Clusters, data aggregates that provide remarkable accuracy in revealing health conditions. The Cambridge company is even working on a black program able to “de-anonymise” health forum members thanks to language patterns cross-matching with Facebook pages. But the project raises too many privacy issues do be rolled out – yet.

This might read like a piece of science fiction, and it is at this point. But this future might not be so far off. Consider for example this research into predicting movement patterns by a team of researchers from the University of Birmingham, reaching the following conclusion:

Through the analysis of the Nokia Mobile Data Challenge traces, we have shown that it is possible to exploit the correlation between movement data and social interactions in order to improve the accuracy of forecasting of the future geographic position of a user. In particular, mobility correlation, measured by means of mutual information, and the presence of social ties can be used to improve movement forecasting by exploiting mobility data of friends. Moreover, this correlation can be used as an indicator of potential existence of physical or distant social interactions and vice versa.