Can Facebook guess your political affiliation? Probably.

ByDanny Clemens KGO logo
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Facebook making changes to privacy practices
Facebook is making changes to its privacy practices in light of the Cambridge Analytica allegations.

Even if you've never specifically identified your political affiliation on Facebook, the social network can make a pretty good guess about where on the spectrum you land.

In 2016, the social network introduced a tool that shows users advertising categories -- political and otherwise -- they might fall into based on pages they've liked and other information they have provided.

Click here to check your affiliation on Facebook's desktop site. (You can also click the upside-down triangle in the upper-right corner of the screen and select "Settings." From there, select "Ads" from the column on the left side of the screen, and then expand the "Your information" category. Within, you'll find a "Your categories" option.)

One of the categories on that page might say "US politics" with a suggested political affiliation in parenthesis. You can click the "X" that appears when you hover over specific categories if you'd prefer not to be targeted as a member of that demographic.

While many users may directly declare their party affiliation in their profile or make it easy for Facebook to guess by liking pages associated with political figures, that's not the only way Facebook can take a stab at unraveling your politics.

"If most of the people who like the same pages that you do - such as Ben and Jerry's ice cream - identify as liberal, then Facebook might classify you as one, too," The New York Times reported in 2016.

Facebook's ability to guess is remarkably accurate. It correctly distinguished between male and female and black and white respondents more than 90 percent of the time and could also distinguish between Democrats and Republicans 85 percent of the time, a 2013 study showed.

Though more than a year old, the story recirculates again every few months, often because a Facebook post about the tool gets shared widely.

There's also been renewed interest in Facebook's data practices recently after news broke that Cambridge Analytica, a third-party data firm, allegedly misused information from tens of millions of Facebook users during the 2016 election campaign. Facebook said it is in the process of re-evaluating its privacy settings to prevent future such incidents.

Here are demos of how to check your data, deactivate your account and delete your account.