big bro

How Do Facebook Advertisers Know You Might Want to Cruise Gay Dudes?


We already learned that through some simple Facebook data mining, a pretty confident guess can be made about your sexuality. By merely looking at whether you have a lot of gay friends, two MIT researchers wrote a software program that outed Facebookers, even if you didn’t make public you are “interested in” the same sex. So does that explain why, even if you’re not openly gay on Facebook, the site still knows to show you ads for Atlantis cruises?

Actually, no.

Despite handing over all your intimate details, Facebook says its targeted advertising is based on only select demographics you make public, such as your age and location. The type of groups you belong to, or the celebs you become a “fan” of, play no part, the social networking site tells Farhad Manjoo.

When companies advertise on Facebook, they’re allowed to choose a range of demographic characteristics that determine which people see their ads. It’s possible that Atlantis didn’t choose to limit its ads just to gay people but, say, to all single men under 40 who live near San Francisco. This way the company gets to people like you—folks who aren’t out on Facebook but who might still be in the gay-cruise demographic.

The Facebook rep added a couple other points: Ads aren’t selected based on groups you’ve joined or based on your friends. You weren’t shown the gay-cruise ad because your friends are gay or because you became a fan of the group “No on Prop 8,” for instance.

But there is one caveat: If a friend of yours presses “Like” on an ad, Facebook will show you the ad, too, plus a note saying which of your friends liked it. The company also uses the “Like” feature to determine which ads to show you in the future.

So if you and your friends keep clicking “Like” on ads featuring hot shirtless men on the open water, well then yeah, Atlantis is gonna come calling in your sidebar.

TELL QUEERTY: Are you noticing gay ads popping up on Facebook? Or ads obviously geared toward heteros? Share ’em!

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  • Wyatt

    As soon as I switched my status to “seeking men” on Facebook, the gay ads were suddenly there on the right side of the screen. ALL THE TIME. At the time, I was the only gay person I knew on facebook and I still had the ads there.

    Don’t let them fool you. It’s based on the little attraction tab in your info profile.

  • terrwill

    Uhh guys…….I kinda hate to tell ya but every freaking call,email,text,you make or send, and every purchase you nake is identified and recorded by a company called ChoicePoint. They know who you corrospond with by any means, what you purchase, how you pay for it, who you cruise, and probably who you fuck..

    The concept of “privacy” is a quaint little notion that went bye bye with the inception of the internets and satellite technology. Every single bit of new technology is able to be viewed and stored by basicaly anyone. You want to keep tabs on your former of current lovers? You can pay $80.00 and take complete control of their cell phones, listen to calls, be notified every time they make or recieve a call or text, review texts and photos, even turn on the speaker phone to listen in on their sweet nothings!!

    Its not only big brother any more…..its big sister, little brother, et all!!!!!!

  • scott ny'er

    what ads.

    firefox + adblock = nirvana.

  • Jamie

    I get all the gay adds…and ones for ultrasounds…or at least I used to, then I just blocked adds altogether <3 firefox!

  • Keith Kimmel

    Oh gee, I dunno, they know I am a homo based on the fact that:

    1. I declared it on my profile.
    2. My collection of pages is a whose who of queer activists.
    3. Most of my friends on there are homos, too.
    4. Queer as Folk is listed as a favorite TV show.
    5. My events are mostly gay.

    Yeah, I see the ads. All the time. Hell, Atlantis is one of my events. I am planning to do the liberty cruise in Jan 2010. I think even a dumb robot could probably look at my profile and say “Yep, homo.”

  • B

    terrwill wrote, “Uhh guys…….I kinda hate to tell ya but every freaking call,email,text,you make or send, and every purchase you nake is identified and recorded by a company called ChoicePoint.”

    While privacy is a serious issue, ChoicePoint simply can’t do what is being claimed. If your email is sufficiently sensitive that you do not want anyone at an ISP, google, etc. to be able to read it, even if they receive a court order, then encrypt it.

    BTW, if your phone company secretly records your phone calls and gives the recordings to some other company, there are serious legal consequences. has some of it, with references at the end providing more detail.

  • Keith Kimmel

    As for ChoicePoint, they are completely useless. Several people I know have felony convictions and they are working in positions that require clean backgrounds. I asked them how they pulled it off, they said ChoicePoint doesn’t have their criminal records. If they cant even get criminal records (which are a matter of public record) right, how do you think they are going to get other, non-public info compiled.

  • dontblamemeivotedforhillary

    Too many ads for Dating!

  • romeo

    Beyond the Big Brother aspects, one positive thing about this might be that there would eventually emerge an ACCURATE picture of how many of us there REALLY are ! Let’s face it. Most gays pass whenever possible just to avoid hassles. So I’m betting that if our real numbers were known, it would scare the living sh*t out of the right-wing nutjobs. LMFAO !

  • Yuki

    I get a lot of gay ads because I’m listed as “interested in men”. However, I’ve ALSO gotten “DATE THIS WOMAN!” and “Are you pregnant?! There’s an 85% chance that you’re pregnant!” ads before.

  • littlebin

    Facbook also uses keywords from facebook msgs in your inbox and sent items, hence why it’s a painfully slow process deleting them, and there is no simple empty inbox function.

    I deleted all of my msgs, took 2 hours doing it page by page and all of the gay ads etc disappeared.

  • Alex

    I don’t have “interested in” filled out on my profile. Like Yuki, I get all sorts of ads, some obviously aimed at a gay audience, but others designed to appeal to straight guys. Sometimes online ads can be “smart” and aimed at you, but sometimes they screw up horribly. The other day I was watching some show on Hulu and they showed me an ad for NuvaRing. NuvaRing is a birth control ring that men would have nothing to do with. They threw their money down the drain showing me that ad, especially considering that it’s not even possible that I might have a girlfriend/wife to encourage to use it! And at other times, I’ll get banner ads from the business school I graduated from six months ago, or from the company I work for (on my home computer), which is almost creepy. They can be way off the mark or right on target.

  • Me

    I guess you guys share WAY more info about your lives than I do. I don’t get any targeted ads except local ones (because they can read where my ISP is or whatever) and I have several of those Facebook Activists in my friends list (you know who join every boycott this group they can find because they think that counts as “doing something”). I never selected things like what I’m looking for, etc… The more info you share, the more exposed you become. Same thing goes with all those apps, which do nothing more than force spam down your throats. But hey, at least you know which Thundercat you most resemble.

  • Clarice

    Well, although I’m not gay, I’ve been surprised by facebook ads as well. Noone knows I’m pregnant, except for my close family, and yet I get a thousand adds for clothes, help with adoption, places that sell baby stuff, everything.
    I used to have normal ads for all kinds of things I didn’t need, but now there’s only pregnancy ads left, I mean, ONLY.

    Wonder how they do that…

  • Jorje Phorman

    It is rubbish, I have my sex interest listed as women, I am one of the straightest red blooded men alive and I get ads for gay sites, which is offensive to me. No matter how many times I post about hot women or strippers, it does not give me these ads. And rubbish that any company knows your every purchase, ever heard of cash?

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