Are you in complete control of your online identity – of the information that you willingly (and often unwittingly) reveal to the world via social networks and other online properties?
Everything you make available on the web is open to scrutiny, and sometimes this scrutiny can reveal more about you than you ever intended. We’ve heard of bosses using Facebook to spy on current and future employees. And then there’s the teen trauma of parents attempting to infiltrate their children’s digital entourage.
Now, two MIT students have developed software that uses an algorithm to analyse friendship associations on Facebook and predict whether users are gay.
The curious effort, dubbed ‘Project Gaydar’, began as an assignment for a class on ethics and law on the digital frontier. While it is impossible to test the veracity of every prediction, the students – and their lecturer – were amazed at how accurate the algorithm’s predictions were for males.
The software raises all sorts of questions about what the computers of today – and tomorrow – will be able to identify based on the seemingly innocuous set of personal data we share online.
With Google caching everything that hits the public web, we’re bound to find out soon enough.