Facebook targeting gays with advertising?
Over on Lamebook.com, a hilarious humor site that pokes fun at Facebook status updates, a status message appeared Wednesday in its "Out of the Closet Updates:"
Prince keeps getting "gay travel tips" and "gay travel agency" adverts... Is traveling different if you're straight? "Thank you for flying Gay air. Wishing you a fabulous flight."
Prince and his friends went on to banter about the differences between gay grocers, gay cotton plants and gay clothing companies. However, there may be a very good reason why Prince was receiving gay ads. Gawker reports that a Microsoft researcher found the same glitch responsible for the privacy breaches in the apps leak could let advertisers know a users sexual orientation.
It's a known fact that ads are targeted to Internet users based on their personal search data (It's why I get so many ads for pumpkin pie on my Gmail account) and the report discusses a hypothetical situation; it does not know if advertisers are collecting any information based on a user's sexual orientation.
However, the possible problem researchers discovered is that if certain ads are targeted to a specific group, in this case gay men, and the target audience clicks on the ad link, the advertising company can see where the person came from (e.g. Facebook). If that company only targets to gay men on Facebook, they'll know the user is gay.
The danger with such ads... 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 orientation and a unique identifier.
Gawker uses the example of a school application:
Let's say you click on that ad for the nursing school that targeted its advertising only to gay men. You fill out an application and mention that you saw their ad on Facebook. The school now knows you're a man who is interested in men, even if you've hidden your sexual orientation using Facebook's privacy settings.
Reached for comment, Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for Facebook said via e-mail, "Our advertising guidelines prohibit advertisers from using user data collected from running an ad on Facebook, including information derived from targeting criteria. For example, we explicitly prohibit them from associating that targeting detail with the data collected from the user in forms they fill out, applications they make, or other interactions on their site."
This definitely has all the lip-smacking qualities of a scandal, but it seems again another molehill rather than a mountain.
Listen, here's my advice: don't click on the ads if you don't want the advertising companies to see where you came from or save the information you don't everyone to know about for your offline life.
Am I wrong?
| October 21, 2010; 11:55 AM ET
Categories: The Daily Catch
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