What Do Your Apps Say About You? This 'Washington Post' Quiz Is Weirdly Accurate
We judge other people by their apps all the time, but have you ever wondered what your apps say about you? The uses to which someone puts their phone can speak volumes about them: If you downloaded Snapchat, you're under 25; if you use Cartwheel, you're a thrifty shopper; and if you have Pinterest, your kitchen is probably a wasteland of failed baking experiments interspersed with frustrated sobbing into your semi-thawed microwave burrito backup dinner (unless that's just me). In short, there's a wealth of information to be inferred based on what apps you choose to download, but it's rarely explored outside of app development — until recently.
Researchers from Aalto University and Qatar Computing Research Institute decided to see how precisely they could predict information about someone based on their apps, and the results are eerily accurate. Researchers analyzed the demographics and app usage of more than 3,700 Android users to create various models predicting four characteristics: Gender, age, marital status, and income. Accuracy varied based on the characteristic in question; income was the least predictable (60.3 percent accuracy), although researchers did note that high-income people were more likely to use LinkedIn and low-income users preferred Job Search. Gender was the most easily predicted, with 82.3 percent accuracy.
Again, this information was predicted solely from the apps users downloaded. Are you creeped out? Because I'm a little creeped out.
If you're not yet, you will be. Apps are notorious for requesting overly broad permissions from users who don't read or simply don't care about privacy policies (and for good reason); even when users actively try to protect their privacy, the sheer number of apps requesting excessive permissions requires users to choose between downloading something potentially useful or risk giving away information they don't want known.
"Many users undoubtedly do not carefully review the permissions that the apps they install require, and even less, understand the scope of the information that can be inferred from the data accessible by the apps," researchers noted in the aforementioned study.
Of course, this doesn't mean you should chuck your phone in the trash and drop off the grid. For one thing, that's easier said than done, and for another, not all apps share data with third parties. However, it is something to keep in mind next time your cool younger sister tells you to download something; if you want to keep some information private, try to take note of what permissions you're granting the app. Then you can go off the grid.
So how much do your apps say about you in particular? The Washington Post used the results of the study discussed above to create a quiz predicting your age, income, marital status, and gender. All you have to do is check off which apps you've downloaded out of a list of 32, and voila! You get a glimpse of what people can tell about you based on your apps. It's not exactly psychic — it guessed that I was a man, which is pretty clearly untrue — but as you've no doubt guessed by now, it's still scarily accurate. In part, this is because the results are relatively broad (age, for instance, is reported as "under/over 32 years old"), but also because we are what we app. Or something.
Take the quiz over at The Washington Post.
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