In which I expose a minor Facebook privacy issue

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.

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*A whole other cause I have no interest in taking up

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