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Facebook Outing You to Advertisers?

Facebook Outing You to Advertisers?


If you're out on Facebook, chances are that the nursing school in your town knows you're out too.

A new study by Microsoft and the Max Planck Institute shows that advertisers on social networking behemoth Facebook target gay men on the site with products and services based on stereotypes. The researchers set up profiles for straight men, straight women, gay men, and gay women. It found that Facebook's advertising algorithms changed the ads for the gay male and female users, but more so for gay men than lesbians, showing that advertisers are more willing to pay to target gay men specifically.

However, according to the report, the text of the ads for some services -- like a nursing degree for a medical college in Florida -- was completely neutral, but the ads were still targeted exclusively to gay men. Additionally, half of the 66 ads targeted exclusively to gay men did not mention the word "gay" in any of the copy.

"The danger with such ads, unlike the gay bar ad where the target demographic is blatantly obvious, is that the user reading the ad text would have no idea that by clicking it he would reveal to the advertiser both his sexual-preference and a unique identifier (cookie, IP address, or email address if he signs up on the advertiser's site)," the researchers wrote.

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Michelle Garcia