Facebook Will Soon Tell If You Are Rich or Poor
The social network giant Facebook technology already knows a lot about us, but soon you could know your income if a newly patented technology came to fruition.
The social networking giant wants to build a system that collects personal data from users, such as education, home ownership and internet use, to predict their socioeconomic status. The patent was filed on July 27, 2016, but it was made public on Thursday.
The presentation suggests an algorithm that can help improve Facebook’s targeting capabilities so that it can show more relevant ads to users. A decision tree begins by asking what the user’s age is and, from there, asks a question that would be apparently relevant to that user’s age group.
In the presentation, young people between 20 and 30 years old are asked how many Internet devices they have, while those between 30 and 40 are asked if they have a home or not.
Other information that is considered is a person’s travel history, what type of devices the user owns, how many devices connected to the Internet they have and what their highest level of education is.
At the bottom of the decision tree, it will ask ‘What is the probability that the user is in the middle class?’ The patent states that, in general, a user’s socioeconomic group is linked to a user’s income.
But, as expected, the social network giant Facebook recognizes that users may not feel comfortable offering how much they earn per year.
“Online systems often do not have information about user income, for example, because users are generally not willing to share information about income, which can be confidential information, in online systems,” says the patent.
Therefore, instead, Facebook is asking questions on the margin of income and using other personal data to draw conclusions for itself. Not only uses the data provided by users on the platform but can also refer to “actions performed by the user on Facebook.”
“By predicting user socioeconomic groups, Facebook can help the third party to present sponsored content to target users,” according to the patent. “Third parties can effectively promote their products or services, and the online system can provide a more attractive experience for users,” states the note.
Facebook would use the decision tree to group users into three classes: working class, middle class or upper class. However, it is not clear if the patent will actually be used for user orientation.
“We often look for technology patents that we never implemented, and patents should not be taken as an indication of future plans,” a Facebook spokesperson states. Facebook has already been criticized for knowing too much about its users, and many argue that it does not respect the user’s privacy.
The firm has filed other patents related to user tracking, including one that describes a system designed to detect and respond to the emotions of users, according to CBInsights. A patent described a technology that would capture user images through smartphone or laptop cameras, even when the user is not actively using the camera.