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Facebook is telling advertisers your sexual orientation

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As you can probably tell, the ads that show up when you go on Facebook are not random. I've seen ads for the bands I've put in my "Favorite Music" section, ads for politicians who are similar to those I've "Fanned" (or wait, did I "like" them? God, you guys, I think I'm getting old.), etc. But as any gay or lesbian users can attest, the overwhelming majority of "targeted" ads have to do with their sexuality.

That does make same sense — you wouldn't want to advertise your gay male dating site to straight guys — even if some people would already consider that an unacceptable privacy violation. But there's something slightly more worrying going on as well. From a recent study about targeted ads:

Alarmingly, we found ads where the ad text was completely neutral to sexual preference (e.g. for a nursing degree in a medical college in Florida) that was targeted exclusively to gay men. 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 identiļ¬er (cookie, IP address, or email address if he signs up on the advertiser's site).

Basically, these advertisers know they are targeting gay men (apparently it happens the most with them), but don't let you know that, and clicking on through let's these companies (or schools, or organizations) know your sexual orientation. Certainly not the biggest Facebook privacy concern, but another to toss on the pile.