A new computer programme can tell whether you’re gay based on a series of photos with 91% accuracy, according to researchers.

Scientists at Stanford University have developed a computer algorithm that can correctly distinguish between a gay person and straight person 81% of the time in the case of men and 74% in the case of women.

When the software reviewed five images of the same person it was even more successful, correctly distinguishing between gay and straight men 91% of the time and between gay and straight women 83% of the time.

The artificial intelligence (AI) analysed a sample of more than 35,000 facial images that men and women publicly posted on a US dating website. Black and ethnic minority faces were not included in the sample, and there was no consideration for bisexual people.

The research found that gay men and women tended to have “gender-atypical” features, expressions and “grooming styles” – in other words, that gay men appeared less masculine than straight men and gay women appeared less feminine that straight women.

It also found that gay men tended to have narrower jaws, longer noses and larger foreheads than straight men, and that gay women had larger jaws and smaller foreheads compared to straight women.

While undoubtedly intriguing, the AI’s success rate has also raised the alarming prospect of the technology being abused, whether through breaches of people’s privacy or as a potential way of targeting gay people in countries where homosexuality remains illegal.

 

Nick Rule, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto who has published researched on the science of ‘gaydar’ told The Guardian: “It’s certainly unsettling. Like any new tool, if it gets into the wrong hands, it can be used for ill purposes.

“If you can start profiling people based on their appearance, then identifying them and doing horrible things to them, that’s really bad.”

He added: “What the authors [of the study] have done here is to make a very bold statement about how powerful this [technology] can be… Now we know that we need protections.”

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