MIT students have designed a program that allows them to identify gay men using their Facebook friends' sexual preferences. The study is causing a stir concerning online privacy.
The "Gaydar" project was started by two MIT students as a term project for for their class on ethics and law on the electronic frontier.
They decided to look at the explosion of people signing on to social networking sites and what they are unknowingly telling everyone about themselves.
The project looked at the 'interested in' field and added up the number of gay friends for males who did not disclose their sexuality. Although ethics prevented full verification, the outcome was correct for every individual whose sexual preference the students knew independently.
The program basically judged people by the company they kept.
The project has not been published in any scientific journals but according to the Boston Globe it does give people a strong warning about online privacy.
According to the Boston Globe the study shows, Who we are can be revealed by, and even defined by, who our friends are: if all your friends are over 45, you’re probably not a teenager; if they all belong to a particular religion, it’s a decent bet that you do, too.
Project 'Gaydar' is only part of a new field of social network analysis that examines the connections between people and what it can tell about us.
The possible applications run from predicting who might be a terrorist to the likelihood that a person is happy or fat reports the Boston Globe.
In an interview with Facebook spokesman Simon Axten, Boston Globe reports him as saying, "This isn’t specific to Facebook and is entirely possible in the real world as well."