Students analyze social networking friend lists to predict sexual orientation

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gay_black_men_959604529.jpgSeptember 22 – (Relaxnews)

Two students at MIT, Carter Jernigan and Behram Mistree, have been investigating relationships that may link a user and the number of female or male friends he has on social networking sites to his sexual orientation.

The two students who were involved in the research at MIT started their investigation as a simple term project for their class, “Ethics and law on the electronic frontier,” said The Boston Globe in their September 20 article entitled “Project ‘Gaydar'”.

What eventuated from Jernigan and Mistree’s research was the discovery that the simple act of becoming friends with someone on an internet-based social networking site may reveal more information about yourself than you are willing to share.

Jernigan and Mistree discovered that they could predict someone’s sexual orientation by using a computer program they developed to analyze online friends. The computer program took into account the gender of the person and then made a prediction based on the gender and sexual orientation of that person’s friends.

Hal Abelson, a computer science professor at MIT who taught the students investigating the phenomena revealed to the Boston Globe, “When they first did it, it was absolutely striking – we said, ‘Oh my God – you can actually put some computation behind that.'”

“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.”

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