# Algorithm "Outs" Facebook Users

#### Kurokami

##### New member
Algorithm "Outs" Facebook Users

A new algorithm released by MIT students can determine the sexual orientation of a person just by analyzing the sexual preferences of their friend networks.

It didn't begin as an insidious way to publicly out Facebook friends. The pair of MIT students who designed the algorithm did so for a class that was focused on ethics and law on the internet. The assignment was simple enough: Exactly how much information do we unwittingly reveal about ourselves when we friend people, "Like" certain topics, or become a fan of certain things?

The answer is: A lot more than you realized.

According to an analysis of friends networks on Facebook, students found that gay men had more gay friends than straight friends. Using that logic, a pair of MIT students created an algorithm that essentially "outs" people just by analyzing the breakup of their friends networks. Early tests of the equation successfully "outed" several gay people, just by analyzing the sexual preferences of their personal networks of friends. However, this same algorithm only worked to identify gay men; lesbians and bisexual men or women were not as easily outed.

"When they first did it, it was absolutely striking - we said, 'Oh my God - you can actually put some computation behind that,'" states Hal Aberson, a computer science professor at MIT. "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."

The project focused on the "homophily principle," basically the fact that like attracts like. If you're into dogs, you're more likely to friend people who also like dogs. If you're gay, you're more likely to hang out with people who are also gay. Using this basic principle, researchers are able to pick out a person's political affiliation, gender and even what breed of dog they prefer.

This really puts a new spin on internet privacy. It's not as easy as removing or hiding personal information on Facebook or Twitter. We can reveal truly personal information just by the internet crowd we pal around with.

Source: Popular Science [http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/09/20/project_gaydar_an_mit_experiment_raises_new_questions_about_online_privacy/?page=full]

(Image [http://www.flickr.com/photos/marc_smith/4511843933/])

Doesn't work.

#### Poomanchu745

##### New member
YAY! Finally the self-inflicted Big Brother thing is coming to fruition. I hope people start to realize what they are unwittingly making public knowledge. Maybe this will be the first step to people understanding that by making a facebook, myspace, twitter account you are essentially letting anyone (the government) know what you are doing and what you are thinking.

#### flying_whimsy

##### New member
Poomanchu745 said:
YAY! Finally the self-inflicted Big Brother thing is coming to fruition. I hope people start to realize what they are unwittingly making public knowledge. Maybe this will be the first step to people understanding that by making a facebook, myspace, twitter account you are essentially letting anyone (the government) know what you are doing and what you are thinking.
The bigger concern isn't that the government will have this knowledge, but that advertising firms will; the government can do little in the face of our corporate run technology age when it comes to information control.

#### Jinx_Dragon

##### New member
Mr. Mike said:
I'm not even saddened by how completely unnecessary this is. I'm just impressed.
Indeed. I don't think people really understand the depth of this. It is a computer code, something which is faaaar from being able to even understand sexuality, that is capable of compiling information on sexuality. Sure it is useless, sure it is unnecessary and sure it likely has to have a shit load of data to be able to be accurate... more then enough a human would of made the conclusion half way through.

But damn it... it is a bit of code that does that. That is impressive.

#### Gaias

##### New member
So we now have a working technological program of the 'Gaydar' that homosexual men are stereotypically known to possess?

#### The_root_of_all_evil

##### New member
The project focused on the "homophily principle," basically the fact that like attracts like.
I think this is missing out on a huge obvious arrow.

Gay men "tend" to be more promiscuous(because they're men, rather than their sexuality), so most of the "friends" will be ...I hate to say it...booty calls. So it's many/many.

With a m/f relationship, it's either one/one because of jealousy, or one/many.

So, if your friends are all people you fancy...you're probably gay. (Correlation, not causation)

#### ark123

##### New member
Also if you're into cats and a male, it flags you as gay instantly. As it should.
Seriously though since when do MIT students make algorithms for the GOP?

#### clzark

##### New member
people with similar interest tend to become fond of each other and become friends?

stop the f*cking presses.

#### MelasZepheos_v1legacy

##### New member
Wow. And I suppose the fact that I am utterly straight (ish), but last time I checked had more than 60% gay or bisexual friends, would mean I'm actually in the closet?

Man, this study must know me better than I know myself.

Either that or it's utter bullcrap.

#### Klarinette

##### New member
DividedUnity said:
And now over to the news room. Instead of developing technologies that could benifit mankind like medical equipment weve discovered how to find gays on facebook.

Seriously, what the hell. Fair play to them for figuring out how to alienate people even further.

This article reminds me of a Family Guy episode.

"If you try to take a blood sample and dangerous acid squirts out instead. Youve got a gay"
I quoted that because there are easier ways to find out if people are gay. Ask them

This is like saying weve developed a system to find out if someone is gay or not based on the bars they go to. Weve found that males who attend male strip clubs are fairly certain to be gay.

Thanks for that insight science. Now go cure cancer already
Hmm... nicely put. And kudos for the Family Guy quote.

#### Anticitizen_Two

##### New member
I can't believe these people have nothing better to do with their lives than design this algorithm. Hell, actually going on Facebook is probably more productive.

#### Sjakie

##### New member
Great...now facebook is science...i dont know if i should laugh or cry.

It does provide more possibilities to spy on people....sooo...hehehe

#### heyheysg

##### New member
MelasZepheos said:
Wow. And I suppose the fact that I am utterly straight (ish), but last time I checked had more than 60% gay or bisexual friends, would mean I'm actually in the closet?

Man, this study must know me better than I know myself.

Either that or it's utter bullcrap.
What is straight(ish)?

#### chronobreak

##### New member
DividedUnity said:
And now over to the news room. Instead of developing technologies that could benifit mankind like medical equipment weve discovered how to find gays on facebook.
To be fair, I'm sure there are plenty of people working on medical equipment and curing diseases and such. Just because someone is a student at a school like MIT doesn't mean they HAVE to choose a career path of helping their fellow man and everything. Free will and all. Besides, it was just for a class.

#### Danpascooch

##### Zombie Specialist
I like how it's described as an "Algorithm made by MIT students" as if it's quantum mechanics.

Gay people have a lot of Facebook friends who are also gay! OMG YOU'RE A GENIUS!

Lol, it's so obvious it's idiotic.

#### Danpascooch

##### Zombie Specialist
heyheysg said:
MelasZepheos said:
Wow. And I suppose the fact that I am utterly straight (ish), but last time I checked had more than 60% gay or bisexual friends, would mean I'm actually in the closet?

Man, this study must know me better than I know myself.

Either that or it's utter bullcrap.
What is straight(ish)?
That's when he wants to pretend he's straight in order to call this study crap.

Seriously, nobody who's straight calls himself Straight(ish) sorry if I sound like a bigot, but that's just a fact.

(I have no problem of any kind with homosexuals)