If you’ve ever taken to Facebook (or Instagram) and taken a picture of yourself inside your home, or #roomie, #dadlife, and #kids, the social media giant has all the information necessary for knowing who you live with. Facebook recently submitted a patent application for technology which would predict a user’s household based on the images, captions, and other personal information on their platform.
Facebook waited for the public’s attention to be subverted to submit the application, which was initially filed for May of 2017. However, amidst security and privacy concerns, the company applied for a patent called “Predicting household demographics based on image data”.
When BuzzFeed first broke the story, Facebook replied that just because they applied for the patent doesn’t mean the technology will be implemented. “We often seek patents for the technology we never implement, and patents should not be taken as an indication for future plans,” a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed.
Based on the patent, the technology recognizes the people in photos, how frequently they appear in photos, the metadata containing your geo-coordinates, and any captions, tags, or terms that are associated with a family unit to predict who makes up a household. Additional data like “messaging history, past tagging history, [and] web browsing history” are used to see who shared IP addresses to indicate who is sharing internet networks.
This additional information will be used to better target advertising. If you’ve ever talked about a product on Facebook Messenger or text and start seeing advertising for it, you’ve experienced retargeting.
“Existing solutions of content delivery to a target household are not effective … Without such knowledge of a user’s household features, most of the content items that are sent to the user are poorly tailored to the user and are likely ignored by the user,” the patent noted.
Facebook generated $40 billion in revenue last year of which $39.9 billion of which was from targeted digital advertising, giving them plenty of reason to invest in more accurate targeting features.
Using Facebook’s platform, advertisers can access the data Facebook has stored on every user and use it to customize their advertisements and the audiences they are down to. If you’ve ever uploaded a picture to Facebook, the metadata in the file tells them your exact location where the photo was taken.
As someone who has worked in the digital advertising industry for over a decade, I can attest to the power of Facebook’s advertising. If I wanted to target recently divorced women who live in Seattle, have no kids, and are interested in the Netflix show “Narco’s”, I could do it with ease. The Facebook Advertising platform is built for ease of use, allowing for anyone to create highly targeted ad campaigns.
Facebook is under scrutiny after the New York Times wrote an in-depth article about what Facebook does with your data, which Mark Zuckerberg claims were a misrepresentation of their intentions with the data.
As a result, millions of users are leaving the social media platform, and it’s not because of the political nature of users newsfeeds. The Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed what many working in the advertising industry already knew, as well as practices which both political parties have been using since Obama’s first run for office.
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