AI can Determine Whether a Person is Gay with 91 Percent Accuracy

Artificial intelligence now has the capability to guess a person’s sexual orientation based on photos of their face with startling accuracy, according to new research from Stanford University. In a peer-reviewed paper to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers demonstrate the capabilities of a novel machine learning algorithm that can tell from a handful of photos whether a person identified as gay or straight on a dating website.

The work, conducted by Yilun Wang and Michal Kosinski, is raising serious ethical concerns about how it could be abused to further marginalize members of the LGBT community. For one, the researchers’ pessimistic view of privacy is at odds with the work of individuals like Sarah Jamie Lewis, a cybersecurity researcher who studies privacy, specifically for queer people.

“All this paper does is reinforce stereotypes and categories that the queer community is fighting so hard to break,” Lewis told me over Twitter direct message. “But even if we accepted the paper’s premise that someone can appear visually queer then the paper still has major ethical issues around participant consent and the overall aim of the research,” she explained, referring to how the photos used were pulled from a publicly available dating site instead of gathered with the participants’ knowledge.

The deep neural network used by the researchers correctly distinguished between straight and gay men 81 percent of the time, and between…

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