Want to really get to know someone? Well, you may not find the real answers on their social media accounts, ex-Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz told CNBC on Friday.
In an interview on “Squawk Box,” Stephens-Davidowitz, who left Google after spending the last five years studying aggregate search data, said people search Google for things they might not divulge to anyone else.
“People are constantly lying. They lie to friends, family members, to surveys, to social media, even to themselves. But they tend to be really honest with Google,” said Stephens-Davidowitz, author of “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Reveals About Who We Really Are.”
Stephens-Davidowitz, who calls Google “digital truth serum,” said people’s search histories reveal some pretty bizarre and disturbing things. He said people living in areas you wouldn’t expect to have high levels of racism often search for racist content. People also search about anxieties and insecurities that they wouldn’t post about in real life or on social media.
In the book, Stephens-Davidowitz said sometimes the findings are amusing. For example, wives on social media may call their husbands “amazing,” “the best” or “so cute.” On Google, however, they might search “a jerk” or “annoying.”
The data from Google could present a potential gold mine for marketers and business leaders who rely on using real data from people. Stephens-Davidowitz recommends those businesses use Google Trends, which he says is an underused source.
Stephens-Davidowitz said all the data researched is anonymous and is pretty safe from a privacy perspective. But he warned about hacks to personal accounts that could reveal such data.
“If someone hacked my account, I’m screwed. We’re all screwed,” he said.