Internet & the Law

A market intelligence firm in New York has discovered that Facebook has filed for a patent that would allow the social media giant to spy on you through your webcam or mobile phone.

Here is how it apparently works as described by CB Insights, the firm that discovered the patent. The program would use passive imaging data – also known as video captured by cameras that are not turned on. An algorithm would then determine the user’s emotion, based on their facial expressions.

To further illustrate, Facebook created a fictional character called Desmond Jones. The patent says, “It appears from the profile that the user is looking away from his device during a kitten video posted by another Facebook user. Therefore, a content delivery system may choose to exclude videos of that kind in the future.

A spokesperson for CB Insights says that while this is seemingly a good thing in that it helps deliver targeted content to users, it is a PR and ethical nightmare.  The patent was granted in 2015, but Facebook also filed patents for similar technology in May of 2017.

One such patent would be able to determine your mood when sending a text message. It would analyze your emotions by looking at your typing patterns, and then change the message depending on your mood. For example, if you appear to be happy, the program would use a larger font size and add appropriate emojis.

Another patent based on image analysis of facial features would use this information to suggest certain emojis to use in your message. This is all designed for Facebook’s messaging service, which a lot of people use.

The programs can also use the information gained to determine what types of sponsored posts to add to your feed. In other words, if Facebook doesn’t already have too much control of the information you present, they soon will.

Are you a Facebook user, and do you provide a lot of personal information on your page? Soon, you may not even know when or what information the company is gathering about you.

If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.

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