Project ‘Gaydar’
At MIT, an experiment identifies which students are gay, raising new questions about online privacy

It started as a simple term project for an MIT class on ethics and law on the electronic frontier.

Two students partnered up to take on the latest Internet fad: the online social networks that were exploding into the mainstream. With people signing up in droves to reconnect with classmates and old crushes from high school, and even becoming online “friends” with their family members, the two wondered what the online masses were unknowingly telling the world about themselves. The pair weren’t interested in the embarrassing photos or overripe profiles that attract so much consternation from parents and potential employers. Instead, they wondered whether the basic currency of interactions on a social network - the simple act of “friending” someone online - might reveal something a person might rather keep hidden. Full article.

Tags: MIT, data mining, gaydar, privacy

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I'd like to suggest that you crosspost this to the gay atheists group if you haven't done so yet, this would be of great interest there as well. I didn't even know about this posting until I stumbled upon the Privacy and Anonymity group just now, which I must have missed earlier.

To return to your topic, I've stayed away from joining any gay groups on Facebook because I have a few folks in my FB network who I don't know if they're accepting of gays or not, one of them is a member of a fundamentalist christian church (we used to be co-workers and I absolutely love her as a person and as a friend, and would rather not lose her as a friend if I can avoid it) but more importantly because of future employers. Even after any federal law is passed that protects gays from discrimination in employment, that will only count as being at the starting gate in the fight against employment discrimination and it will still be a while after that law is passed before employment discrimination against gays truly declines.

I may have been accidentally outed on my page anyway once or twice, in a comment someone made on my wall (which would have automatically resulted in an email sent to every person in my FB list containing that comment as well, assuming of course that none of them have marked me as someone they've friended yet don't want to receive alerts about) and in a comment someone made about my primary photo which still appears under my primary photo if you click on it. So I decided that going forward, anybody gay who joins me on FB, I now go out of my way to ask them to please not to say anything about me being gay on my FB wall, anything relating to the gay community should be sent instead by private post on FB.

I did briefly debate the wisdom of eliminating my wall on my FB home page, especially after another guy on my FB network eliminated his own wall after a privacy breach, someone posted something on his wall that should never have been posted in public, but I eventually decided against it.

I still fear that by not joining these gay groups on FB, I am potentially missing out on valuable news and updates sent to those who have joined these groups, and that I am otherwise slighting these groups by not showing them my full support. I will probably create a second account on FB to get around this, with no profile photo or maybe I'll use instead a photo of something else, and on that second account I will feel far more free to join gay groups, but anybody who friends me on that account I will probably still refer them back to my first account and friend them on the first account instead because I'd still like to keep all my friends on the same account. I will of course mark that 2nd account as not searchable on both FB and outside FB as well.


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