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Jeremy Ashkenas
You know, I really hate to keep beating a downed zuckerberg, but to the extent that expensive patents indicate corporate intent and direction — Come along for a ride, and let’s browse a few of Facebook’s recent U.S.P.T.O. patent applications…
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Systems and methods of eye tracking control”, Facebook describes a system that watches your eye movements to track “the object of interest,” or “point of regard.” Special infrared LEDs are used to shine into your pupil and cornea to determine gaze.
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Soft matching user identifiers,“ Facebook describes how sending an innocuous event invite to your uploaded contact can trigger a “bounce-back” message, including cookies, device UUIDs, and other unique information for identity matching purposes.
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
Next! Facebook explains a “user influence score,” and how “the user influence score can be decreased when the sender is reported to be associated, within a specified time period, with other users who are reported to be associated with undesired content.”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In another patent, Facebook writes: “…the log may record information about actions users perform on a third party system, including webpage viewing histories, advertisements that were engaged, purchases made, and other patterns from shopping and buying”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In (now newsy!) “Dynamic enforcement of privacy settings…” FB dreams of: “a message from the social networking system to the external system requesting the external system to cease using the information obtained in the previously transmitted response.”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Sentiment polarity for users,” Facebook reads your comments for positive or negative “affinity scores”, and generates “trust scores” for strong feelings. “Data sets from trusted users are then used as a training set to train a machine learning model”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Identifying and using identities”: “A list of people known to a user is maintained.” “the people known to a user may be inferred by monitoring the actions of the user.” “identifiers also may be inferred based on indicia other than user actions.”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Implicit Contacts in an Online Social Network” Facebook says it “may determine the social-graph affinity of various social-graph entities for each other” “the overall affinity may change based on continued monitoring of the actions or relationships“
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In a new travel rec’s patent, FB writes: “The system may monitor such actions on the online social network, on a third-party system, on other suitable systems, or any combination thereof. Any suitable type of user actions may be tracked or monitored.”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In our final patent, Facebook discusses advertising based on what you browse: “The social networking system monitors implicit interactions between the user and objects of the social networking system with which the user has not established a connection”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 4 Apr 18
Replying to @chetfaliszek
Whew! That was a lot of patent-ese! But I think — as one might say at the Times — a portrait emerges of the kind of surveillance machine Facebook aspires to continue constructing. For a good wine pairing, follow up with ’s thread on FB+VR:
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
Alright, folks — since you enjoyed the previous Facebook patent thread so much, you get a bonus round! Remember: I’m only skimming a handful of these patent applications. There are over 11,000 of them. Here we go…
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Activity tracking,“ FB explores how to ~“automatically sense, record and identify all types of activities such as walking, running, jogging, cycling, rowing, driving with car, bus, train, walking stairs, jumping, swimming, playing football & skiing.”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Image object recognition based on location,” Facebook discusses identifying objects in your photos and videos based on neural networks of nearby images. It knows you’re probably going to photograph the Golden Gate before you ever snap the shutter.
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Using social signals to identify unauthorized content,” Facebook “analyzes any combination of the social signals“ — to determine if you’re uploading “suspicious”, “unauthorized”, or copyrighted content. Do your friends share unauthorized content?
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In the v. odd “Combining faces,” Facebook explores face blending. “the disclosed technology can mix or blend (the edges of) the face … within each target image … such as to improve the overall appearance, the naturalness, and/or the intended realism…”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Tracking significant topics of discourse,” FB explains how to analyze the keywords you use while discussing “politician’s names” and “political, legal or economic issues”. An interface is then exposed for “Political analysts” or “marketing agencies“
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Real-World View of Location-Associated Social Data,” Facebook imagines reading live video from a smartphone and determining that you’re pointing it down a street that contains three stores “relevant to the user”: “75% sale at Shabby Chic Furniture!”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Dynamic creative optimization for effectively delivering content,” Facebook crafts unique ad units personalized just for you—and including the “optimal combination of creatives” for what you’re most likely to click on, to “greatly increase engagement“
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
In “Multi-Factor Location Verification,“ Facebook ponders how to track your location when GPS is off. They might get it from a nearby “RFID reader”, an “NFC system”, a Bluetooth device, or the “MAC address” of your router, or “the device’s wifi ID“.
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
This one gets a 2nd tweet, b/c FB doesn’t need your phone to be turned on: “A location determination method may include advanced knowledge of the user's intended or estimated location, such as a reservation for an event at a particular time (e.g. restaurant, theater, concert…)”
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
Finally, “Generating Business Insights using Beacons,” Facebook considers what sorts of information to share with businesses: For a restaurant, it may send “food allergies and favorite foods.” For a bookstore, “a list of books recently read.” </thread>
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
Let’s sum up! All these patent applications don’t *necessarily* mean that Facebook wants to use any of these techniques. Instead, they illustrate the kinds of possibilities that Facebook management imagines, when confronted with the reality of Facebook’s personal data hoard.
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
I think it’s only fitting that we let Facebook have the last word on this:
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Jeremy Ashkenas 6 Apr 18
Replying to @jashkenas
Gotta tack this one on — In “Socioeconomic group classification” Facebook laments that “users are typically not inclined to share income information,” and instead “predicts” if you’re “working-”, “middle”, or “upper class” based on your data profile.
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Jeremy Ashkenas 11 Jun 18
Replying to @jashkenas
I have no idea for how long this has been true, but Facebook's answers to Congress about tracking non-users are unequivocal: "Facebook does not create profiles or track website visits for people without a Facebook account." So there’s now an easy out...
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Jeremy Ashkenas 21 Jun 18
Replying to @jashkenas
👁️👁️👁️ 👁️👁️ Facebook has applied for patents to: predict your death, track your location continuously, know when you deviate from routine, bug your electrical sockets, and fingerprint your camera. (For all who enjoyed the FB patents megathread)
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Jeremy Ashkenas 21 Jun 18
Replying to @jashkenas
For a tasty pairing, consume alongside Sunday’s episode of Westworld, in which we catch a glimpse of William’s playing card sized “profile,” constructed from all of his actions over his years in the park, matched to data gathered from his black hat.
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