Facebook Likely Outing Gays to Advertisers

Sexual preference may be revealed even if hidden to your friends
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2010 9:50 AM CDT
Facebook Likely Outing Gays to Advertisers
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks to press and advertising partners at a Facebook announcement in New York, Monday, November 6, 2007.   (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Just days after it was revealed that Facebook apps were leaking personal user data, another privacy flap for the social networking site: This time, it appears that Facebook is giving sensitive information—specifically, sexual orientation—to advertisers. Researchers from Microsoft and Germany’s Max Planck Institute recently released a paper revealing that when they created six fake Facebook profiles (each indicating which gender of partner they're "interested in"), the ads shown to the fake gay man were significantly different than the ads shown to the fake straight men.

Though the ads were different, not all of them were obviously targeted toward gays—for example, one ad was for a nursing school. And here's why that's a problem, writes Adrian Chen on Gawker: If you click on that ad and later fill out an application, mentioning you learned of the school on Facebook, “the school now knows you're a man who is interested in men, even if you've hidden your sexual preference using Facebook's privacy settings.”
(Read more Facebook stories.)

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