Advances in artificial intelligence mean machines are now able to figure out a person’s sexuality just from their face.
Research at Stanford University has found that human faces have subtle differences which can denote sexuality, IQ and even political views.
Experts Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang found that intimate traits in a face can be picked up by machine, which humans are not capable of spotting.
According to The Economist, a programme developed to figure out people’s sexuality from just their faces performed with remarkable accuracy.
The researchers’ used 130,741 images of 36,630 men and 170,360 images of 38,593 women downloaded from a popular American dating website.
The images – half of which were of gay people, half heterosexual – were put into a computer system, VGG-Face, which produced a string of numbers to represent a person’s faceprint.
The next step was to use a predictive model, known as logistic regression, to find correlations between the features of those faceprints and their owners’ sexuality.
The computer conclusions were then compared against the sexuality listed on the dating profile.
Incredibly, the model accurately predicted the person’s sexuality in 81% of cases.
When shown five images of a person, the artificial intelligence system managed to predict the person’s sexuality correctly in 91% of cases.
The model performed worse with women, telling gay and straight apart with 71% accuracy after looking at one photo, and 83% accuracy after five.
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The accuracy far outstrips that of humans – who were able to correctly guess sexuality from a face pic in just 61% of cases for men, and 54% for women.
The model performed less well when given a set of images that more accurately represented society – with seven in 100 faces presented being of gay people.
However when asked to rank the 10 faces it was certain were gay, nine of the 10 were accurate.
The Economist reports: “If the goal is to pick a small number of people who are very likely to be gay out of a large group, the system appears able to do so.
“The point is not that Dr Kosinski and Mr Wang have created software which can reliably determine gay from straight.
“That was not their goal. Rather, they have demonstrated that such software is possible.”
Experts fear such technology could be used in societies where homosexuality is criminalised or socially unacceptable, and hope highlighting it now will alert policymakers to the possibility of machine abuse in future.
Details of the study are due to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.