The software that points 'gaydar' at Facebook

Two MIT students believe they've created software that looks at profiles and can declare with some certainty the sexual orientation of the Facebook member.

I know those chaps at MIT get involved in some strange pursuits.

But here's one that might make some readers feel that the world is now irreversibly eerie.

According to the Boston Globe, two MIT students, Carter Jernigan and Behram Mistree, seemingly fascinated with ethics and law and, possibly, other people's sex lives, became enraptured by how much information people are revealing through their Facebook profiles.

So they delved into some Facebook profile data and believe they have created software that can tell whether someone on Facebook is gay, merely by looking at his or her friends.

Especially, it seems, his friends.

CC Todd Huffman/Flickr

Although the students couldn't actually prove that what they surmised was true, they used what they seem to describe as personal knowledge and concluded that their program was especially accurate when it came to identifying gay men.

One of the students' professors, Hal Abelson, used some interesting imagery to describe their apparent discovery, now excitingly dubbed Project "Gaydar." Said Abelson: "That pulls the rug out from a whole policy and technology perspective that the point is to give you control over your information - because you don't have control over your information."

I'm not sure I am quite as excited by this rug-pulling as Professor Abelson.

In the real world, one's choice of friends may, indeed, send out signals about all kinds of characteristics and predilections one might have.

And in the Facebook world, who cares if someone is gay or straight? They're not real friends anyway, are they?

However, I am not frightfully fond of the concept of even well-meaning uberbrains trawling through my personal things in order to make assertions about who, what, how or even where I am.

I am sure, for example, that if I were to come to your house and examine your underwear drawer I might be tempted to reach certain conclusions about your lifestyle.

I might, though, just be wrong, mightn't I?

 

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