Since appearing on the IPO in 2012, Facebook has filed thousands of patent applications from varied domains. As an example, one of its applications describes the usage of selfie cameras for analysis of facial expressions that customizes the feed of the user according to their mood. Another application discloses using the microphone on a user’s phone to determine the TV shows he/she watches. Other applications can guess how soon the user may get married, predicts their social and economic status and even tracks their sleeping pattern.
In a nutshell, Facebook takes up every opportunity of knowing about its users` lives – their location, communication means and patterns, their fashion choices or favorite brands, and even policies they care about. However, not all of the technologies they patent appear in their products. Rather the majority of technologies described in their patents have not been put in any of their currently available products. But, no one knows for sure if they are using these technologies in a manner unknown to the common user.
Below is a list of some such patent / patent applications that will be under a lot of critique if Facebook decides to use them.
1. The Relationship Determiner
Facebookhas filed a patent (US20150356180A1) that discloses a way to determine if a user is in a relationship. It does so by taking into consideration how often one visits another user`s account, the number of persons on a user’s profile picture, percentage of male/female friends, etc. The social networking system identifies certain types of interactions between the user and additional users as indicators and determines a value for an indicator based on a number of additional users associated with the indicator that identify a relationship status of single and a number of additional users associated with the indicator that identify a relationship status other than single.
2. The Personality Qualifier
Another patent by Facebook (US 9,740,752) discloses the use of methods like Extraversion degree evaluation, sociability, emotive health, etc.to determine a user’s personality. This is then used to tailor and populate their feed. This feature is about identifying your extraversion degree, how open and emotionally stable you are rather than applying the characteristics mentioned above to pick stories and/or advertisements available for being displayed.
3. The Future Predictor
The next patent (US20120016817A1) tries to predict what changes will occur in the life of its users. It uses their posts and messages as well as their credit card location to forecast a big event in their life, such as the birth of a child, someone`s death or completion of school. It also uses their life change events such as a change in marital status, relationship status, employment status, etc. to generate a training set of data comprising historical data of other users who have gone through a life change event. The system updates the user’s profile to indicate the life change event and provides advertisements to the user responsive to the prediction of one or more life change events.
4. The Closeness Identifier
US 8,472,662 discloses a method that performs an analysis of images shared by the users and creates a unique «sign» of a camera commanding defective pixels or marks on the lens. This signature can be used to determine who uploads the photos taken from a user’s phone or camera. It may also be used to identify how close the users are with someone by analyzing the frequency of how often the users make use of the same phone or camera.
5. The Silent Advertiser
Another patent application US20170195435A1 discloses a correlation of the usage of multimedia with profiles of users. It analyzes the microphone on the smartphone of the user in order to find TV shows they watch – and whether advertising is switched on or off. In addition, it uses an electrical example of obstacles made by the telecommunication cable in order to guess what shows the users watch. This data can be used to show related advertisements to the user.
6. The Geo-Locator
In another patent application US20160316341A1, Facebook discloses a method of tracking the user’s location and behaviour 24X7 and saving the data in a log. The log includes a number of entries that indicate a geo-location of the user at a particular time of day of a particular day of a week. The data may be used to send notifications to others if any deviation from the standard occurs. It may also be used to specifically locate the user at any time or predict where the user will be at a particular time.
7. The Behaviour Analyser
Similarly, US 9,369,983 discloses a method to store statistics of long-term location tracking to compare the user’s location with the location of their friends, in order to define their close friends depending on the frequency of communication or meetups. The user devices store the sets of data and extract the statistics from the sets of data that represent behavioral pattern of the users. In addition, it also suggests tracking the user’s phone location in a fixed position to determine the number of hours they sleep or tasks they perform.
Not only Facebook, other technology companies have also applied for such patents. For example, Amazon’s bracelets (US 9,881,276) to track warehouse employees and Google Teddy bear (US20150138333A1) complete with a camera, microphone and a speaker to control media devices. Sometimes, corporations apply for patents pre-emptively in order to outdistance competitors in accordance with a new technology, even if they are not going to use it. Same may be the case with Facebook. But we have to agree that a lot of its patents represent new methods of gathering, analysis and use of private data for advertising, a process that is quintessential for the kind of business model on which Facebook thrives. Almost 99% of Facebook’s turnover accounted to advertisement during the first quarter of the year 2018.
Even after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook continues to gather personally identifiable information of its users. It is up to us to be careful because one can use this data for more artful purposes than target advertising. Dr. Jennifer King, the Director of Privacy at the Center for Internet and Society, believes such data may be used to influence or manipulate the emotions of users.
People may say what they want to, but the reality is that there are two billion active users daily on Facebook, the majority of which are sharing their ideas, thoughts, and feelings on a platform which collects their private data.
About the author
Melisa Marzett works as a writer at Professional Resume Writers. She is constantly looking for more opportunities and enjoys taking steps for self-improvement.