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Guess what Facebook’s got in store?

Guess what Facebook’s got in store?

If you’re the type who worries we are sleepwalking into an Orwellian high-tech world, you may want to look away now. We’re here today to check out some of the many patents Facebook has applied for.

The New York Times looked at some of the thousands of patents Facebook has applied for since going public in 2012 and, frankly, some of them are downright scary.

NYT’s review revealed that Facebook has considered tracking every aspect of its users’ lives. Such as where you are, who you are with, whether it’s a romantic relationship or not, which brands and politicians you like and even a patent for a method of predicting when your friends die.

Here then are seven Facebook patent applications that reveal just where Facebook would like to go.

Reading your relationships

One patent application attempts to predict whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not. It uses information such as how many times you visit another’s page. The number of people in your profile pictures and the percentage of your friends who are a different gender.

Classifying your personality

This patent would allow Facebook to use your posts and messages to infer personality traits. It will be able to judge your degree of extroversion, openness or emotional stability. It would then use these characteristics to select news stories or ads to display.

Predicting your future

This patent application will use your posts and messages alongside your credit card history, marital status and any new jobs to predict when a major life event would occur such as births, graduation or even the likelihood of death.

Beyond simple reliance on a change in user profile information, the described approach is better able to use all the information contained in the social networking system such as wall posts, instant messages, email messages, etc, to determine whether a user has undergone a life change event and/or predict whether a user will undergo a life change event at a future time.

- Facebook: Facebook Patent Application

Identifying through your camera

This would consider analysing pictures to create a unique camera signature. This signature would be used to analyse whether you know who uploads pictures taken on your device. Or it might be used to pinpoint the affinity between you and a friend based on how frequently you use the same camera.

Listening to the environment

This would make use of your phone’s microphone to identify which TV shows you watched and whether ads were muted. It proposes using the electrical interference patterns created by your television power cable to guess which show is on.

Tracking routine

One patent discusses tracking your weekly routine and then sending notifications to other users of any deviations from that routine. In addition, it will use your phone’s location in the middle of the night to establish where you live. Not good for any extra marital activities.

Inferring your habits

This patent would correlate the location of your phone to the locations of your friends’ phones to predict whom you socialise with the most. It also proposes monitoring when you phone is stationary to track how many hours you sleep.

Most of the technology outlined in these patents has not been included in any of our products, and never will be.

- Allen Lo: Head of Intellectual Property, Facebook

Companies will often file patents simply to stop their competitors from doing so or beat them to a new technology. Even if they have no intention of ever using them. Obviously, there are some Facebook have filed with little intention of using them.

But given 99% of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising Facebook needs to find new ways of using your personal information and package it for advertisers. This is, in effect Facebook’s business model.

And as long as Facebook continues to amass our personal data we should be wary of other applications that can be used for including manipulating our emotions and lives.

With more than two billion monthly active users, most of whom will at some point share their thoughts and feelings on the platform, Facebook is amassing our personal details on an unprecedented scale, which isn’t likely to change.

Image: James Titus Allen


A veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.
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