A Facebook user has claimed that the site knew he was gay before he ever came out, or shared the information, other than in a text message sent to a friend. Reports, however, suggest that an algorithm guessed he was gay from activity on other sites.
Facebook user Matt said he had logged onto the social networking site, after only ever text messaging a friend to confide that he was gay, to find a targeted advert from a ‘coming out coach’, reading “COMING OUT? NEED HELP?”.
In an email to BuzzFeed, he suggested that Facebook may have read his text messages, in order to find out the information, as he had only liked two pages on facebook – a Republican politician, and a local bar.
He went on to say that he had not publicly or privately, on a wall post, or in private messages, discussed any LGBT issues, or mentioned that he was gay.
He said: “As many LGBT individuals know, for a time, the most closely held secret we have is our sexuality. Several nights ago, I texted a close and dear friend for advice on revealing such sensitive personal information. The next morning, I woke up to a ‘sponsored story’ on my Facebook page that asked ‘Coming Out? Need help?’ How did Facebook know such a specific ad would apply to my profile?”
He was met with an ad for Rick Clemons, a California-based life coach who helps people to come out, despite saying that only one person other than himself knew that he was gay.
In a statement, Facebook has maintained that it has not, and would not read peoples’ text messages, as that would constitute an invasion of privacy.
The report by BuzzFeed suggests that, as he had previously commented on a story on its site, about the Republican Senator Rob Portman announcing his support for equal marriage after his son came out, he was targeted for the ad by behavioural tracking about his sexual orientation.
Speaking to the site, Matt said: “It certainly felt like a violation of trust that someone obtained that information.”