There isn’t any question that Facebook seems to have issues with user privacy. Privacy settings have a history of changing unbeknownst to users and are becoming more and more complex with every change. A new concern surrounding Facebook and user privacy involves the unintentional outing of homosexual users to advertisers, no matter how secure they believe their profiles to be.
These advertisements are specifically aimed at gay and lesbian users 8212; using the language of the ads in hopes of appealing to their targeted homosexual viewers.
When users click on these ads, it then labels their “account” (IP address, cookies and e-mail address if used) as belonging to a homosexual user. Though advertisers claim they will keep this information private, it is now open to allowing marketing firms to spread this information to other advertisers (seen in a Facebook user leak a few months back) and then flag specific users as being either homosexual or heterosexual.
This is a blatant issue of not only privacy but also stereotyping.
The issue concerning privacy is obvious. It seems as though no matter how secure you set your profile, advertisers will be able to know enough basic information (like your gender and sexual orientation) to be able to target ads specifically to you. Though this may not seem like such an issue, those users who would rather keep such information private (especially from large advertising companies) now have what seems like no choice in the matter.
It’s as though the privacy settings we are allowed only keeps the profiles private from those Facebook doesn’t choose to share the information with. Facebook seems to be so preoccupied with these personalized ads that they forget they’re dealing with people on the other side of those advertisements.
Also, stereotyping plays a large role in these specific advertisements and they perpetuate gay and lesbian stereotypes. By targeting these ads to gay and lesbian users, advertisers are using language and images they believe will better attract them to their site, even using the word “gay” frequently in the ads. Because, of course, there isn’t any diversity amongst a group of people who happen to have the same sexual preference.
I understand that there may be a need to advertise to people of one gender differently than the other, but it doesn’t seem fair to those getting flagged by advertisers that they need specific ads for the simple reason of sexual orientation. What Facebook is allowing advertisers to do is unfair to users because not only does it single out those profiles as being “different” from others in some way, but it also projects what seems to be unfair stereotypes.
KC Aransen is a sophomore psychology major from Arlington.