Artifact Details


Big Data gets political: Stanford University’s Dr. Michal Kosinski in conversation with Museum Center for Software History’s David C. Brock

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Liking your favorite musicians, restaurants, and travel destinations on Facebook may seem harmless. But each click may have played a crucial role in Donald Trump’s victory and the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

Dr. Michal Kosinski turned studying Facebook likes into a science at Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Center. He and a fellow student developed a personality quiz application that encouraged users to opt into sharing their Facebook profiles. This allowed Kosinski to create a database that linked users’ Facebook likes with the personality traits they revealed by taking the quiz. In addition to discovering correlations between personality and the things users liked on Facebook, he was able to predict a user’s skin color, sexual orientation, political leanings, and even alcohol and drug use.

It didn’t take long before Kosinski’s work attracted the attention of the private sector—specifically, a big data firm that gave rise to Cambridge Analytica, the analytics company that worked with the Trump and LeaveEU campaigns. Kosinski, who had become increasingly uneasy as he started to consider the implications of his research, turned down the company’s offer to pay for access to his database. He soon learned that the company had created a copy of his data tool and was using it in the wild.

Dr. Michal Kosinski joins us to share his story—his work in psychometrics, how his big data tool works, the methods he warned against and finally, his vision for the future of data in politics and beyond.




Brock, David C., Moderator
Kosinski, Michal, Speaker


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA





Collection Title

CHM Live


Computer History Museum

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