Online browsing behaviour can unveil your personality: Study

Kuala Lumpur :You may not be anonymous online as you think, according to a new study which found that just 30 minutes of browsing behaviour can indicate your personality and provide a unique digital signature to identify you.

“Our research suggests a person’s personality traits can be deduced by their general internet usage. This differs from other studies that have only looked at the use of social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter,” said Ikusan R Adeyemi, from the Universiti Teknologi in Malaysia.

“That we show these behavioural signatures exist opens up new research into understanding online behaviour,” said Adeyemi.

Research linking personality traits to computer usage has typically focused on social media. For example, extrovert people tend to use these platforms to enlarge their boundary of friends and influence, while introvert individuals spend more time on social media to compensate for a probable lack of physical interaction.

However, a person’s general online browsing behaviour can also reflect their choice, preference and reflexes, which is largely controlled by their unique psychological characteristics. The study recruited volunteers and monitored their internet usage. This included many factors such as the duration of the internet session, number of websites browsed and total number of requests made.

In addition, the volunteers completed a test to categorise their personality characteristics over five categories: openness to new experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The analysis of this data showed strong links between a person’s personality and browsing behaviour. For example, an individual’s level of conscientiousness could be distinguished within a 30-minute session of online browsing.

“Online marketing organisations can use our findings to reliably tailor their product to a specific audience; it can be used to develop an intelligent internet service that can predict and personalise a user’s experience,” said Adeyami.

“It can also be used as a complementary way of increasing security for online identification and authentication. Law enforcement agencies can also apply our findings in the investigation of online crime cases,” he said.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in ICT.