“Most of the technology outlined in these patents has not been included in any of our products, and never will be,” said Allen Lo, a Facebook vice president and deputy general counsel, according to the New York Times.
Quite an odd thing to say. One can’t help but wonder whether this is actually true or whether this is meant to alleviate widespread concerns regarding the company’s privacy policies.
The statement made by Lo comes from a New York Times article that details 7 characteristically eerie patents filed by Facebook. All 7 are concerned with the collection of personal information. Here they are:
Regarding Your Relationship Status
This patent concerns technology that uses behavioral and personal information, such as how many times you visit another user’s page, the number of people in your profile picture, and the percentage of your friends from the opposite sex, to predict whether you’re in a relationship.
This one concerns technology that can process your posts and messages to determine character traits such as extroversion, emotional stability, and thought process. The type then will help facebook choose the types of stories and ads that a person sees.
Seeing the Future
Major life events, such as birth, death, or graduation, can all be predicted using data from posts and messages, as well as credit card transactions and location.
Identifying Your Camera
Faulty pixels or scratches on the lens can be analyzed and used to create a unique camera signature. This could be used to determine whether you share a camera with another person. The frequency of sharing the camera could also be an indication of the affinity between you two.
Listening In On You
No point in mincing words here, this patent simply describes eavesdropping. The patent suggests using the microphone on your phone to gather data: television shows you watch and whether you mute the sound during ads. It also proposes using the electrical interference pattern created by the television’s power cable to guess which show is playing.
Monitoring Your Daily Routine
This one is really disconcerting. It describes techniques used to track a person’s weekly routine and (this is where it gets even creepier) informing others of any deviation from the routine. This same patent also describes a phone’s location in the middle of the night to establish where a person lives.
Identifying Your Clique
This patent correlates your phone’s location as well as that of your friends to understand with whom and how often you tend to socialize with. It also suggests monitoring when your phone is stationary to gauge how many hours you sleep.
In Facebook’s Defence
To be fair, many companies file troves of patents that never see the light of day. Typically, companies do that in order to fend off the competition. They identify ways that competitors could try and upstage them and file the patent simply to impede them from executing on certain ideas. But as we’ve come to know from past experience, when it comes to Facebook promises, it’s always best to take them with a grain of salt.