The Noisy Channel

 

Project Gaydar: A Reminder That Privacy Isn’t Binary

September 20th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

There’s a nice article in the Boston Globe about “Project Gaydar“, a project to predict who is gay based on statistically analyzing their Facebook networks. They’ve only done ad hoc validation of their predictions, but claim that their results seem accurate. The involvement of distinguished MIT professor Hal Abelson (at least to the point where he’s quoted in the article) lends credibility to their effort.

I’m glad to finally see a real world example of the issues I blogged about last year in a post entitled “Privacy and Information Theory“:

The mainstream debates treat information privacy as binary. Even when people discuss gradations of privacy, they tend to think in terms of each particular disclosure (e.g., age, favorite flavor of ice cream) as binary. But, if we take an information-theoretic look at disclosure, we immediately see that this binary view of disclosure is illusory.

I’m curious to see if this project advances the conversation. At the very least, I’m gratified to see my abstract ramblings validated by a real-world example!

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