2 Texas College Students Outed by Facebook Loophole
Two University of Texas-Austin students have been outed to their friends and family due to a Facebook privacy loophole, despite taking measures to make sure their sexual orientation was hidden on the social media website, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The students, Bobbi Duncan, 22, and Taylor McCormick, 21, both attend the Texas college and were outed to everyone on their Facebook after they were added to the college’s discussion group for the Queer Chorus by the choir’s president, Christopher Acosta, who was unaware the move would reveal the students’ sexual orientation to their loved ones.
"I felt like someone had hit me in the stomach with a bat," Duncan told the WSJ.
After the young adults were added to the group, a note was posted to all of their Facebook friends saying that they were members of the school’s Queer Chorus. Facebook does not require users to approve such a request and automatically makes the notification public.
Even though Duncan and McCormick have used the website’s privacy settings to make sure that their parents did not find out about their sexual orientation, there was no way they could have prevented the notification from entering their family’s feeds.
"Our hearts go out to these young people," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said. "Their unfortunate experience reminds us that we must continue our work to empower and educate users about our robust privacy controls."
Duncan came out to her best friend last year but did not want tell her father, whom she helped set up a Facebook account. McCormick also did not want his father to know that he was gay because he is a member of a conservative church that teaches being gay is a sin.
"We have the one big secret when we’re young," he told the publication. "I knew not everyone was going to be accepting."
Soon after Duncan was outed, her father began leaving her angry voice mails, she said.
"No no no no no no no," Duncan said she told a friend. "I have him hidden from my updates, but he saw this," she said. "He saw it."
When she finally spoke with her dad he threatened to stop paying for her car insurance and demanded that she go on Facebook, leave the chorus and renounce that she is gay.
"To all you queers. Go back to your holes and wait for GOD," Duncan’s father wrote on his Facebook soon after the incident. "Hell awaits you pervert. Good luck singing there."
She says the ordeal caused her to go into depression and that she couldn’t "function" for weeks.
"I would be in class and not hear a word anyone was saying," she said.
When McCormick’s father discovered that his son was gay, the student’s mother called him and said that "shit hit the fan" and "it was all over Facebook." For three weeks, the young man’s father refused to talk to him and he says, "He just dropped off the face of my earth."
But the two discussed his sexual orientation during a lunch and although they haven’t talked about it much since, McCormick says he feels more open and proud about who he is and even changed his Facebook profile to say "Interested in: Men."
Despite Duncan’s efforts, her father still argued about her sexuality and the young woman decided to stop returning her dad’s phone calls in May.
"I finally realized I don’t need this problem in my life anymore," she told the WSJ. "I don’t think he is evil, he is just incredibly misguided."
Her mother, however, has been supportive and moved into her apartment with her.
"I wanted to be with her," her mother said. "This was something that I thought her father had crossed the line over, and I could not agree with him."
Facebook has three options for discussion groups, which are "secret," where only members can see the group, "closed," which allows non-members to see the group but not its posts and "open," which allows all users to see.