Directory:Akahele/MIT students prove that privacy is a thing of the past

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According to this article in the Boston Globe, a couple of MIT students have figured out a way of predicting male Facebook users' sexual orientations simply by analyzing their friends list. The students Carter Jernigan and Behram Mistree called their study Project Gaydar and were able to find 10 men who were openly gay in real life but undeclared on Facebook in a sample of 947 men who did not report their sexual preference. In another study, Murat Kantarcioglu, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Dallas was able to make predictions about a person's political affiliations using Facebook profile information as well as lists of friends.

What these two studies underline is that we might be giving away much more personal information about ourselves than we realize. As Jason Kaufman, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University said in the Boston Globe article, "Potentially everything you ever do on the Internet will live forever. I like to think we’ll all learn to give each other a little more slack for our indiscretions and idiosyncrasies.”


One Response to MIT students prove that privacy is a thing of the past

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Gregory Kohs

I note that “the work has not been published in a scientific journal”. It’s certainly interesting, but I wouldn’t draw too much from the conclusions that were “based on their own knowledge outside the Facebook world”.

I think we’re getting to the point where there are two types of people in the world:

  • Those who have a Facebook profile and therefore value self-expression over privacy issues.
  • Those who don’t have a Facebook profile.

Interesting times we live in. Thanks for this memo, Paul!