optional settings, privacy policies and data mining. In the past, ReadWriteWeb covered Facebook's plans to sell user data for market research purposes. However, today's article in the Boston Globe suggests that user information can be mined for more than just advertising purposes.With a product as ubiquitous as Facebook, the public has raised a number of privacy-related concerns including
An MIT experiment dubbed, "Gaydar" by creators Carter Jernigan and Behram Mistree has employed computational analysis to identify user traits based on information listed by their Facebook friends. Through friend profiles, the program predicts the likelihood of your religious affiliations, political leanings and even your sexual orientation. Essentially the idea is that friends are likely to share traits. So if you're in the closet, but you've got loads of vocal friends, a program of this nature could potentially out you.
Said Hal Abelson, a professor who co-taught the course, "[It] 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."
With the service being used to catch tax evaders, in addition to a conspiracy theory citing CIA ties, it'll be interesting to see how the public reacts to this latest show of Facebook data mining capabilities. While it's unlikely that terrorist suspects are friending each other on Facebook, there are a number of associations that need not be publicized to corporate partners or governments.
Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson