Well, this isn’t cool, Facebook. A newly discovered patent application reveals that Facebook would like to start spying on its users via their computer’s webcams and smartphone cameras to, you know, help them make more money. That’s not the least bit creepy and/or scary at all.
(As if they aren’t already doing that, am I right? Hello? Zuckerberg?)
This patent, filed in 2014, could mean that Facebook would be able to target their ads even MORE than they already do now. Oh goodie!
“Computing devices such as laptops, mobile phones, and tablets increasingly include at least one, and often more than one, imaging component, such as a digital camera. Some devices may include a front-facing camera that is positioned on the same side of the device as a display. Thus, during normal operation, a user may be looking towards the imaging component. However, current content delivery systems typically do not utilize passive imaging information. Thus, a need exists for a content delivery solution that takes advantage of available passive imaging data to provide content to a user with improved relevancy.”
According to International Business Times, this is how it would work…
The purpose behind the invasive idea is to analyse people through the camera in real time while they browse online and if it recognises you looking happy, bored or sad, it would deliver an advert fitting your emotion. If you were forlorn, for example, it would be able to serve an ad to perk you up, or know what products you had previously looked at online and put them under your nose at just the right time.
Facebook explains in the patent application that a user who looked away during certain content (in their fictional case it was a kitten video) algorithms for the social network would know to not show more of that type of content. In another example it describes how the technology could tell if a user’s expression changed while looking at posts or pictures from a certain person and would show more or less of these in the future.
CB Insights described it this way…
“This patent proposes capturing images of the user through smartphone or laptop cameras, even when the user is not actively using the camera. By visually tracking a user’s facial expression, Facebook aims to monitor the user’s emotional reactions to different types of content.”
CB Insights also called the use of something like this would be “a PR and ethical minefield” for Facebook. No kidding.
However, just because Facebook applied for a patent it doesn’t mean they’re going actually going to use it!
“We often seek patents for technology we never implement, and patents should not be taken as an indication of future plans,” according to a Facebook spokesperson.
“Yes” would be the correct box to check there.