For decades, the anonymity offered by the internet has permitted untold freedoms for some of the world's most oppressed people. It's also been pretty good for dogs.
But all that could be at an end with the discovery that a person's browsing behaviour can indicate their personality traits, and that just 30 minutes of internet usage can provide enough information to identify someone.
Malaysian researchers at the Universiti Teknologi in Kuala Lumpur recruited student volunteers and monitored their internet usage - the duration of the internet session, the number of websites browsed and the total number of requests made.
The volunteers were also asked to complete a test to assess their personality traits in five categories - openness to new experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
The resulting analysis showed strong links between how people act on the web and their personality.
"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, lead author of a paper describing the results.
"That we show these behavioral signatures exist opens up new research into understanding online behavior."
The team's next task is to attempt to tease out more patterns across personality traits, allowing them to map an individual's personality signature. They say this research will help companies customise the services they offer.
"It can be used to develop an intelligent internet service that can predict and personalize a user's experience," explained 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."
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