Big brother

This creepy software can actually tell if you’re gay by looking at your face

Big brother isn’t just watching anyway. Apparently he’s thinking too.

Researchers Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang from Stanford University say artificial intelligence can now tell a person’s sexual orientation just by analyzing their face and facial structure, the Economist reports.

The guys used a total of 35,326 pictures of both men and women, gay and straight, all represented evenly collected from an unnamed dating website.

The images were then fed into a piece of software called VGG-Face, which creates “faceprints” of people through a long string of numbers.

Related: Think you can you guess the sexual orientation of total strangers?

From there, the software used a predictive model called “logistic regression” to guess people’s sexual oritentations based on their faceprints.

The rate in which it guessed correctly?

When given one photo of a gay man and one photo of a straight man, both chosen at random, the software correctly guessed 81% of the time. When given five photos of each man, it did even better, correctly guessing 91%–91%!–of the time.

The software didn’t do quite as well with women, however. When given one photo of a lesbian and one photo of a straight woman, it had a 71% accuracy rate, and an 83% accuracy when given five.

Related: Creepy new spyware claims it can help parents determine whether their son is gay

Still, it outperforms any human’s ability.

When researchers gave the same images to people, they could only tell the gay man from the straight man 61% of the time, and only 54% of the time for the women.

Kosinski tells the Economist that he conducted the experiment primarily to remind people of the power and potential dangers of machine vision. He believes that there will be a day when privacy as we know it no longer exists and that the AI systems may eventually be trained to determine other  intimate traits, such as a person’s IQ or political views.


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    Put the tweezers and lipgloss down, boys.

  • Kangol

    The potential for targeted discrimination based on AI software like this is tremendous, and people could potentially lose out in jobs, housing, etc., without knowing why, because without civil protections or laws requiring disclosure, what’s to stop a homophobic employer or landlord from asking for a series of “tests,” including an online interview with this software activated that tags a person as “gay” (whether they are or aren’t), and then leads the employer to drop the potential employee’s candidacy. That’s just one possible outcome of this.

    It’s another reason to pass ENDA and nationalize civil rights protections for LGBTQ people as soon as possible.

    • Heywood Jablowme

      ENDA is a laudable goal but will be useful mostly for unlawful firings, NOT in the hiring process.

      After all, employment age discrimination was made illegal decades ago and, needless to say, that hasn’t put much of a dent in age discrimination at the hiring end.

  • Sam6969

    This vision of the world to come is so appalling I wonder how many of us will survive around the planet. Anyway I do not want to live in that kind of society.


    Gay see, gay see give me your answer do. I’m haaaaaalf craaaa-zzzzzzy alll foooor the looooooove offfff yooooooouuuuu


    HALooo, sailer 9000

  • Sam6969

    The software source code is available in opensource on the Oxford University Website. So, any country in the world can have access to it…

  • Paco

    If this technology does get improved and ends up being used by homophobes to discriminate, at least the technology will prove that being gay is an immutable biological characteristic and not simply the lifestyle choice that the right claims. Those homophobes using the technology will only hasten gays being recognized as a protected class by the law the same as race, gender and even the lifestyle choice of religious belief.

    • Sam6969

      Except in Iran, Tchetchenia, Saudi Arabia, etc.

    • WindsorOntario

      Does that mean we will qualify for SSI or disability for being gay?

  • CHOAM88

    This is like the scene from LOTR where you see Sauron making the rings; quick somebody find us a Frodo and a volcano. I think this software would be cool to use to assess if theirs a remote chance that guy you’ve been to afraid to ask out because you’re afraid he’ll go batshit or go to hr etc etc is gay, but it’s way too dangerous for the wrong people to be able to use for the wrong reasons

  • xmanforever77

    Oh good! Now I’ll be able to tell if I am gay or not. I mean, I’n NOT gay, but 20 bucks is 20 bucks, as they say. So I prefer to bottom–that doesn’t mean anything, does it? And my obsession with rugby players–it’s just a phase…really.

  • Mlook2017

    That means gays in the Middle East are F***ed if that really works!

  • Jack Meoff

    I can’t believe money was actually spent developing this technology. What a waste of time and money.

  • Heywood Jablowme

    Since the photos used were all from DATING sites, is it possible that there was some unaccounted-for variable in the facial expressions? Do people trying to appeal to [desired sexual group] make certain expressions that they don’t quite make otherwise? “Flirty” expressions, somehow. Or select photos that they think (unconsciously) will promote this effect?

    Conversely, do people applying for jobs, for instance, make very slightly different facial expressions which tend to negate this phenomenon? In other words, if you’re gay do you try (consciously, sort of)to avoid the “gay” facial expressions?

    But yeah it’s creepy!

  • Nahald

    They may claim it works, but I seen many men who from facial appearance look straight and are gay and vice versa. Another point, since being gay is determined by genes, this software just proves the point to the Evangelicals and other that it is NOT a choice.

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