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AI Can Determine Sexuality Based on Photos of People's Faces

11 September 2017

The system was eventually able to distinguish between gay and straight men 81 percent of the time, and 74 percent of the time for women, just by reviewing a photo. Both researchers collected thousands of pictures from the web, more specifically from a dating site, and then they compiled the data and after that, they extracted facial features from pictures using neural networks to categorize and clarify the images. Using the same images, people could tell gay from straight 61% of the time for men, and 54% of the time for women.

A group of researchers has been met by criticisms after publishing a study on an artificial intelligence technology used in a dating website to detect whether an individual is gay or not based exclusively on photos.

People of colour, transgender people and bisexual people were not included as part of the study.

In a study from Stanford University, scientists have successfully tested a computer algorithm that could plausibly discern an individual's sexual orientation, merely by scanning a photograph of that person.

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A "gender-atypical facial morphology" was associated with gay men, according to the study, including grooming styles and expressions deemed more feminine, as well as narrower jaws, longer noses and larger foreheads.

"Typically, [heterosexual] men have larger jaws, shorter noses, and smaller foreheads". The model performed worse with women, telling gay and straight apart with 71 per cent accuracy after looking at one photo, and 83 per cent accuracy after five.

"Governments that continue to prosecute LGBT people could hypothetically use the technology to out and target populations", says The Guardian. However, Kosinski and Wang also warned of the potentially unsafe ramifications such AI machines could have on the LGBT community."Given that companies and governments are increasingly using computer vision algorithms to detect people's intimate traits, our findings expose a threat to the privacy and safety of gay men and women", Kosinski and Wang said in the report.

Facial recognition technology is becoming increasingly speedy, reliable and accurate. And our oncoming new-normal of ever-present face recognition technology may also be used to predict sexuality - accurately or otherwise - prompting concerns for queer people in countries where anonymity is key to survival.

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The paper claims to show for once and for all that exposure to certain hormones before birth determines sexual orientation; that being gay is not a choice, in other words. Half the men and women identified as gay, the other half identified as straight. Is it enough to simply say, as the researchers literally have, "we studied an existing technology - one widely used by companies and governments - to understand the privacy risks it poses".

What the authors concluded from this was that "faces contain much more information about sexual orientation than can be perceived and interpreted by the human brain".

"It's certainly unsettling. Like any new tool, if it gets into the wrong hands, it can be used for ill purposes", said Rule. Dr Kosinski is well known for his previous work on psychometric profiling using information from social networking sites such as Facebook to draw conclusions regarding personality. Donald Trump's campaign and Brexit supporters in the United Kingdom reportedly used similar tools to target voters and help them achieve victory. The accuracy went down when the number of people was increased to 1,000 with only 7% gay men.

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AI Can Determine Sexuality Based on Photos of People's Faces