Tag Archives: gay Facebook

Shocking: New Study Reveals Facebook Might Reveal Personal Info To Advertisers

The blogosphere has been abuzz with the release of a study by Microsoft and the Max Planck Institute in Germany that reveals that Facebook’s ad-targeting program can potentially out gay users to advertisers.  Researchers monitored six fake profiles of varying gender preference:one gay man, one lesbian woman, two heterosexual women and two heterosexual men.

While the ads for the heterosexual and lesbian women weren’t so different, those of the gay and heterosexual men were.  The study found that even if a Facebook user’s profile in no way indicates that he or she is gay, one might infer that he or she is gay based on the user’s interests and the ads he or she clicks on.

The study reports, “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).”

While I have railed on Facebook’s advertising policies in the past, I think the public’s reaction to this study has been much ado about nothing.  By now, anyone with a Facebook profile understands that there are inherent privacy risks involved.

Besides, Facebook’s ad-targeting service does not broadcast that a certain user is gay, it simply says that based on that user’s interests, he or she might also be interested in some gay-oriented products or services.  Just like when I visit CNNSI.com I am shown ads linking to straight-oriented websites, like that of Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit Edition (which I could not be less interested in).

With the advent of contextual and behavioral ad targeting the same risks are present anytime someone visits a gay-oriented website and clicks on a banner ad, whether or not that ad is for a gay-oriented product or service.  The simple fact is, every time we surf the web, we run the risk of revealing personal information tied to our IP address just through the way we navigate the internet.  Living in the information age affords us previously unimaginable convenience, but it is not without its drawbacks.

New Study Says Gays More Likely To Read Blogs, Connect On Social Networking Sites

It’s no secret that Americans are turning to the internet more and more as a source for connecting to the outside world, and a new report by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs Communications suggests the GLBT community is at the forefront of this trend.

The press release published today reports that 54% of GLBT adults read blogs on a regular basis, compared to just 40% of heterosexual adults.  Furthermore, gay and lesbian membership on social networking sites outpaced heterosexuals on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter, and 55% of GLBT adults visit a social networking site every day compared to just 41% of heterosexual adults.

For marketers wanting to reach the GLBT community, this report has some significant implications – the most obvious one being that a strong social media platform is important when targeting gay consumers.  The study will also likely provide fodder for those who contend that gays and lesbians are turning to the internet more and more for news that affects the GLBT community (possibly at the expense of gay print publications).

Additionally, this report says something about gay consumers in general – that we are more likely to use new technology and new means of connecting to the world around us.  This means marketers should be agile and alert to new and innovative advertising outlets and must try to avoid stale, habitual techniques when targeting the GLBT community.

Facebook Gives In, Allows Gay Ads

A few weeks ago I reported on British gay digital ad firm Pink! AccuraCast’s battle with Facebook to place a few ads for the agency’s poll to choose the “best gay ad ever.”  Facebook initially denied the ads, and in a series of email exchanges, reps from the social networking site and AccuraCast argued the “relevancy and appropriateness” of the ads.  Facebook’s explanation for disallowing the ads was dubious at best, and its actions stunk of homophobia (you can read about it here and here).

Well it appears now that Facebook has had a change of heart.  After a lengthy and rather amusing exchange of emails, Pink! AccuraCast finally convinced Facebook that the ads were, in fact, within the website’s ad guidelines.  According to Adrian at AccuraCast, the ads have been running for several days now.  The irony of it all is that the disputed ads have achieved the highest click-through rates of all the ads the agency runs, proving once and for all the ads must be “relevant and appropriate” for their target audience!

Is Facebook Homophobic Or Just Really Bad At Ad Targeting?

In a post last week I reported allegations that Facebook’s advertising policies might be homophobic.  Pink AccuraCast, a gay-oriented ad agency in the UK, tried to place ads for an online poll asking viewers to pick the best gay commercial of all-time, only to have Facebook reject the ads.  In case you missed it, Adrian from Pink AccuraCast commented on the post, giving more examples of Facebook’s homophobic policies, including a much-publicized rejected ad for the lesbian-themed movie And Then Came Lola (Thanks for the info Adrian!).

In an email exchange with Pink AccuraCast, Facebook claimed the agency’s ads were “irrelevant or inappropriate,” which I find extremely hard to believe.  After doing some research, I found this article from the New York Times that discusses Facebook’s crackdown on misguided ads, but the ads the agency wanted to run were neither irrelevant or inappropriate.  The article also mentions that Facebook doesn’t review each ad, but instead relies on user feedback to flag inappropriate material.  Pink AccuraCast’s ads were targeted to gay men, so I can’t imagine why this target demo would find the ads inappropriate.

This leads me to believe that the problem is not that Facebook is homophobic, but rather that they can’t get basic ad targeting right.  I have read a lot of complaints from straight folks grumbling about being targeted by gay-themed ads on Facebook (here,  and here are a few examples).  There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to banning gay ads on Facebook (a hilarious line from one from one of the wall posts:  “I’m not homophobic, in fact I’m for gay rights, but still, when I see “gogo undies for hot gay fierce boys,” I have to do something.”)  If this is the case and the problem is with Facebook’s targeting capabilities, they should just say so rather than having us believe their policy’s are homophobic.

Agency Claims Facebook Policy Is Homophobic

Yesterday I wrote a post about a poll being conducted by London-based ad agency Pink! AccuraCast in an effort to identify the “best gay ad ever.”  Now the chaps at AccuraCast are claiming Facebook is displaying a “surprising level of homophobia” in disapproving some of the agency’s ads on the social networking site.  You can read an interesting email chain between the agency and Facebook representatives regarding the ads here.

Facebook claims the ads, which depicted shirtless males, were rejected because they displayed imagery that was “irrelevant or inappropriate.”  However, AccuraCast says they were only targeting gay males with the ads, so there’s no reason why the ads could be seen as inappropriate.  In case you’ve never run a Facebook advertising campaign, the site allows you to target your ads based on users’ self-reported information.  So, for instance, if you want to target lesbians living in Waco, Texas who work at Home Depot and like to watch Survivor, you can.  Your creative options are limited, but the cost per click is typically much lower than a traditional banner ad campaign.  I certainly hope this is an isolated incident, because I would hate to have to pull all my Facebook ads due to an ethical conflict.