Here’s something that you know: People entrust their information to Facebook because it gives them control over what is and is not shared with their friends and the public.
But here’s something you might not: There is one piece of information Facebook will share no matter what. And Facebook doesn’t give users the ability to simply keep that information offline.
I’m talking about gender. I chose not to display this information on my profile because, well, anyone I’m friends with either knows what I am or should, so it would just take up space. Facebook makes this choice easy, by allowing me to uncheck a single box:
No big deal.
But even though the information is not displayed on my profile, it is still easily accessible. You see, a while back, I signed up to replace the user ID on my profile with a Facebook ‘username’ – in my case, ‘mordechai.treiger’. Go to the Facebook profile of someone who did the same, and replace the ‘www’ on his or her profile’s url with ‘graph’. A different page will come up. Here’s mine:
Not really all that exciting, but you’ll notice that even though I chose not to display gender on my profile, that information is available here. And you can even do this for people you’re not friends with.
This may not be a big deal to someone who chooses not to disclose certain information on his profile for aesthetic reasons – as did I – but there are potentially legitimate reasons for someone to actually want this designation kept secret.
Easy, I hear you think, just don’t tell Facebook in the first place.
Well here’s the problem: Turns out Facebook forces users to identify as male or female*, whether they want to post that information on their profile or not:
And whereas that information is often harmless, it could also potentially lead to something awkward.
I’ll be honest: This isn’t something I’m personally going to lose sleep over, but I just thought this would be a good time to let everyone know I feel like a total haxor.
*A whole other cause I have no interest in taking up