MIT Students Invent 'Gaydar' Software
By Jane McEntegart, published on September 22, 2009
" Is your friends list letting the cat out of the bag when it comes to your sexuality?
A couple of MIT students conducting a study on social networking arrived upon a very unique conclusion: the two discovered that by studying the company a person keeps online it is possible to determine the individual's sexual preference, even if they have decided to not share that information in their profile.
Boston.com reports that two MIT students recently decided to study social networking and privacy from a new angle. Instead of the usual "Did you know your Facebook profile could ruin your chances of gainful employment or get you fired?" approach, the two decided to take a look at what people unknowingly reveal about themselves through social networking sites and named the project "Project Gaydar."
Carter Jernigan and Behram Mistreeused created a software program that looks at the gender and sexuality of a person's friends and, using statistical analysis, predicts their sexual preference. While Boston.com does concede that the two students had no way of checking if all of their predictions were right or not, they claim that based on their knowledge outside the Facebook world, the tool appeared to be particularly accurate when it came to men.
“When they first did it, it was absolutely striking - we said, ‘Oh my God - you can actually put some computation behind that,’ ” Hal Abelson, a computer science professor at MIT who co-taught the course, said according to Boston.com. “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.” "