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Facebook has become embroiled in fresh controversy amid claims that the social network considered profiling user personalities in order to better target adverts.

The first anyone knew of the aborted project was a 2012 patent filed by the platform in which it described how factors such as emotional stability could be construed simply by referencing individual messages and status updates.

Such traits could then be stored in a user’s own profile to direct targeted news, ads and recommendations. This patent has been updated twice, most recently in 2016, but Facebook insists that it has never used such personality tests in any of its products.

According to the BBC discussions took place between Facebook staff and academics at the University of Cambridge, epicenter of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, over the practicalities of such measures

That relationship has since turned sour however with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg appearing to implicate the university in passing on data without consent, telling congress during a recent hearing that ‘we do need to know whether there was something bad going on at Cambridge University overall.’

The revelation is likely to heap further pressure on the business to become more transparent as it deals with the continued fallout from privacy scandal involving the misuse of personal data, brought to the fore yesterday by Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert who is suing for defamation over its publication of fake ads.