The Business of Being Gay

Is Facebook outing you?

The Advocate recently published a story about Facebook’s advertising plan which could be outing gay users without their knowledge. Microsoft and the Max Planck Institute set up six test Facebook accounts (which is actually illegal under Facebook’s guidelines), including one for a gay man in which the “interested in” dating details were hidden. Despite keeping all things gay under the radar, LGBT-specific ads were served up exclusively to the gay profile.

It’s been argued that the site’s famously inept gaydar also tends to send gay-centric ads to plenty of straights. A few protest pages have even sprung up by scared straights. Why? Because you may be gay if… the Honda Hybrid CR-Z ad shows up on your Facebook page.

It turns out advertisers are very interested in reaching the LGBT demographic, and specifically gay male users on the site. But by clicking on targeted ads, guys, no matter how seemingly un-gay they may seem (like an ad for a local nursing school), the user ends up sending the message that, yep, he’s gay. He’s also unwittingly sharing his IP address with these companies.

The lesson? Don’t click on the ads unless you want to be outed. Even if your local gym already knows you’re a muscle mary, you may not want the world to know it. Or at least corporate America.