What 7 Creepy Patents Reveal About Facebook

Reading your relationships

One patent application discusses predicting whether you’re in a romantic relationship using 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 of a different gender.

Classifying your personality

Another proposes using your posts and messages to infer personality traits. It describes judging your degree of extroversion, openness or emotional stability, then using those characteristics to select which news stories or ads to display.

Another proposes using your posts and messages to infer personality traits. It describes judging your degree of extroversion, openness or emotional stability, then using those characteristics to select which news stories or ads to display.

Predicting your future

This patent application describes using your posts and messages, in addition to your credit card transactions and location, to predict when a major life event, such as a birth, death or graduation, is likely to occur.

Identifying your camera

Another considers analyzing pictures to create a unique camera “signature” using faulty pixels or lens scratches. That signature could be used to figure out that you know someone who uploads pictures taken on your device, even if you weren’t previously connected. Or it might be used to guess the “affinity” between you and a friend based on how frequently you use the same camera.

Listening to your environment

This patent application explores using your phone microphone to identify the television shows you watched and whether ads were muted. It also proposes using the electrical interference pattern created by your television power cable to guess which show is playing.

This patent application explores using your phone microphone to identify the television shows you watched and whether ads were muted. It also proposes using the electrical interference pattern created by your television power cable to guess which show is playing.

Tracking your routine

Another patent application discusses tracking your weekly routine and sending notifications to other users of deviations from the routine. In addition, it describes using your phone’s location in the middle of the night to establish where you live.

Inferring your habits

This patent proposes correlating the location of your phone to locations of your friends’ phones to deduce whom you socialize with most often. It also proposes monitoring when your phone is stationary to track how many hours you sleep.

How a Powerful Spy Camera Invented at Duke Ended Up in China’s Hands

High-tech camera, conceived by scientists for the Pentagon, finds light by moving east

Five years ago, a group of Duke University scientists developed a pioneering gigapixel camera to provide long-range surveillance for the U.S. Navy through a sponsorship from the Pentagon.

The technology, never picked up by the U.S. government, is now being used by Chinese police to identify people from nearly a football field away, after lead Duke researcher David Brady moved to China in 2016 to kick-start his business.

.. Surveillance startups using AI are booming in China as Beijing spends $30 billion a year on public-safety projects, including a vast network of cameras that aims to cover public squares, major crossroads and train stations. To feed that demand, Mr. Brady’s Aqueti China Technology Inc. developed Mantis, a 19-lens camera with processors that combine images into a 100-megapixel frame that users can zoom in on in extraordinary detail.

.. “A government doesn’t need the hand of technology to be oppressive,” he said.

What Mark Zuckerberg Didn’t Say About What Facebook Knows About You

Facebook has a lot more data about us than it lets on—and its tools for providing ‘complete control’ don’t do enough

When you request and download your data from Facebook—a feature Mr. Zuckerberg repeatedly referred to in answers to questions about control—this stored browsing history isn’t there.

That is reasonable, says Antonio Garcia-Martinez, a former Facebook ad-targeting product manager and current Facebook gadfly. Facebook targets ads based on an abstraction derived from your browsing history——an abstraction such as your interest in golf. When you download your data, Facebook tells you what it thinks your interests are but doesn’t provide the specific evidence for why it thinks that.

“If you downloaded this file [of sites Facebook knows you visited], it would look like a quarter to half your browsing history,” Mr. Garcia-Martinez adds.

Another reason Facebook doesn’t give you this data: The company claims recovering it from its databases is difficult. In one case, it took Facebook 106 days to deliver to a Belgian mathematician, Paul-Olivier Dehaye, all the data the company had gathered on him through its most common tracking system. Facebook doesn’t say how long it stores this information.

When you opt out of interest-based ads, the system that uses your browsing history to target you, Facebook continues tracking you anyway. It just no longer uses the data to show you ads.

There is more data Facebook collects that it doesn’t explain. It encourages users to upload their phone contacts, including names, phone numbers and email addresses. Facebook never discloses if such personal information about you has been uploaded by other users from their contact lists, how many times that might have happened or who might have uploaded it.

This data enables Facebook not only to keep track of active users across its multiple products, but also to fill in the missing links. If three people named Smith all upload contact info for the same fourth Smith, chances are this person is related. Facebook now knows that person exists, even if he or she has never been on Facebook. And of course, people without Facebook accounts certainly can’t see what information the company has in these so-called shadow profiles.

.. There’s also a form of location data you can’t control unless you delete your whole account. This isn’t the app’s easy-to-turn-off GPS tracking. It’s the string of IP addresses, a form of device identification on the internet, that can show where your computer or phone is each time it connects to Facebook.

Location is a powerful signal for Facebook, allowing it to infer how you are connected to other people, even if you don’t identify them as family members, co-workers or lovers.

.. All this data, plus the elements Facebook lets you control, can potentially reveal everything from your wealth to whether you are depressed.

Facebook, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and a host of smaller companies that compete with and support the giants in the digital ad space have become addicted to the kind of information that helps microtarget ads.

 

 

Don’t Fix Facebook. Replace It.

what we most need now is a new generation of social media platforms that are fundamentally different in their incentives and dedication to protecting user data. Barring a total overhaul of leadership and business model, Facebook will never be that platform.

.. In Facebook’s case, we are not speaking of a few missteps here and there, the misbehavior of a few aberrant employees. The problems are central and structural, the predicted consequences of its business model. From the day it first sought revenue, Facebook prioritized growth over any other possible goal, maximizing the harvest of data and human attention. Its promises to investors have demanded an ever-improving ability to spy on and manipulate large populations of people. Facebook, at its core, is a surveillance machine, and to expect that to change is misplaced optimism.

.. If we have learned anything over the last decade, it is that advertising and data-collection models are incompatible with a trustworthy social media network. The conflicts are too formidable, the pressure to amass data and promise everything to advertisers is too strong for even the well-intentioned to resist.

.. the real challenge is gaining a critical mass of users.

.. Facebook, with its 2.2 billion users, will not disappear, and it has a track record of buying or diminishing its rivals (see Instagram and Foursquare).

.. Wikipedia is a nonprofit, and it manages nearly as much traffic as Facebook, on a much smaller budget. An “alt-Facebook” could be started by Wikimedia, or by former Facebook employees, many of whom have congregated at the Center for Humane Technology, a nonprofit for those looking to change Silicon Valley’s culture.

.. If today’s privacy scandals lead us merely to install Facebook as a regulated monopolist, insulated from competition, we will have failed completely. The world does not need an established church of social media.