Monitoring website and advert browsing may out gay Facebook users
I can't believe it is quite so straightforward to infer life preferences from browsing habits. Sites of interest are often the exact opposite of sites of preference. Anyone reading my browsing history would probably infer that I was lining myself
up as the next MediaWatch-UK chairman!
Facebook might be inadvertently outing its gay users to advertisers, according to a new study.
Researchers have discovered that different targeted advertising is being sent to users' accounts if they have described themselves as gay or straight.
The discovery could mean that people who wish to keep their sexuality private may be sharing it with advertisers without their knowledge.
A team from Microsoft and Germany's Max Planck Institute created six fake profiles: two straight men, two straight women, a gay man and a lesbian. They wanted to see if Facebook targeted ads based on sexuality, and so the profiles were left
otherwise completely the same.
The team then monitored what ads each virtual user was sent over a period of a week. They found that the ads displayed on the gay man's profile differed substantially from those on the straight one. Many of these adverts were not obviously adverts
for services that only gay men would require, and half of them did not mention the word gay in the text.
The researchers write in the paper: The danger with such ads, unlike the gay bar ad where the target demographic is blatantly obvious, 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-preference and a unique identifier (cookie, IP address, or email address if he signs up on the advertiser's site).
The loophole means that any advertisers who collect data such as Facebook IDs could match a person's sexual preference with their unique ID and their name.
Last week it emerged that vast amounts of data – including the names of individual members and their online friends – were passed to internet advertising firms, with tens of millions of people thought to have been affected. The leaks were
possible even when members had deliberately set their privacy options to the maximum secrecy levels.
Security experts warned that the details could be used – when combined with other publicly available information – to build up a detailed picture of an individual's interests, friendship circle and lifestyle.
Around 25 different advertising and data firms were receiving the information, an investigation by the Wall Street Journal found. It was passed to them by firms whose apps – games and other features – operate on Facebook and not by the
social networking site itself.
between any of those services. (Google Books, Google Wallet and Google Chrome are excluded due to different regulatory and technical issues.)
Any user with a Google account --- used to sign in to services such as Gmail, YouTube and personalized search --- must agree to the policy. Users who don't want to have their data shared have the option to close their accounts with Google.
The changes will apply from March 1st.
Data-protection agencies in Ireland and France said they would assess the implications of the push. At least one consumer-advocacy group fretted that the policy -- which makes it easier for Google to target advertisements to specific groups --
might tie users' hands and make it harder for them to limit what the company can do with their information.
This announcement is pretty frustrating and potentially frightening from a kids and family and teenager standpoint and an overall consumer privacy standpoint, said James Steyer, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Common Sense
A small group of British MPs have signed up to an Early Day Motion voicing concern that Google are set to plunder user data for
advert serving purposes.
The primary sponsor is Robert Halfon and the motion reads:
That this House
is concerned at reports in the Wall Street Journal that Google may now be combining nearly all the information it has on its users, which could make it harder for them to remain anonymous;
notes that Google's new policy is planned to take effect on 1 March 2012, but that this has not been widely advertised or highlighted to Google's users and customers, who now number more than 800 million people;
and therefore concludes that Google should make efforts to consult on these changes and that the firm should be extremely careful in the months ahead not to risk the same kind of mass privacy violations that took place under its StreetView
programme, which the Australian Minister for Communications called the largest privacy breach in history across western democracies.
The motion has been signed by
Campbell, Gregory: Democratic Unionist Party Londonderry East
Campbell, Ronnie: Labour Party Blyth Valley
Caton, Martin: Labour Party Gower
Clark, Katy: Labour Party North Ayrshire and Arran
Connarty, Michael: Labour Party Linlithgow and East Falkirk
Corbyn, Jeremy; Labour Party Islington North
Halfon, Robert; Conservative Party Harlow
Hopkins, Kelvin; Labour Party Luton North
McCrea, Dr William; Democratic Unionist Party South Antrim
Meale, Alan; Labour Party Mansfield
Morris, David; Conservative Party Morecambe and Lunesdale
Osborne, Sandra; Labour Party Ayr Carrick and Cumnock
When new rules governing the way companies collect and use data about our movements online come into force, a little i symbol will
appear on screen to reveal adverts generated by cookies . Many internet users find these digital devices, which are used by websites to create personal profiles based on use of the Internet, intrusive.
The data is used for Online Behavioural Advertising, allowing companies to direct their display adverts at individuals who, through the websites they have visited, have indicated an interest in certain goods or services.
The warning system, to be introduced by the European Advertising Standards Alliance and the Internet Advertising Bureau of Europe, will allow users to opt out of all Online Behavioural Advertising.
begun using the triangle icon on a voluntary basis in Britain but from June all ad networks will be required to display the symbol or face sanctions.