'Gaydar' on Facebook: Can Your Friends Reveal Sexual Orientation?

"Part of what makes the world social is that we do glean clues," she said. "It's a sign that we're finally making a network in which people are more than isolated bits."

Just as in real life, some of the inferences and assumptions people draw from indirect online clues will be false. But she said totally blocking information online would be like "A crowd in which everyone walked around in a giant paper bag from head to foot. They would have privacy, but it would be very boring."

And she said that as people learn about the risks and benefits of maintaining an online life, they're adjusting their behavior and learning how to control their online personas. Some use tools that block personal information, others opt out of social networks altogether.

Even though "Gaydar" was able to accurately identify some gay men, it doesn't necessarily mean this program or others would be able to identify those who choose to be most discreet, she said.

"I think part of it is how willing people are to make ambiguous statements about themselves," she said. "In any place, there's a wide range in how people deal with the trade-offs between public and private."

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