Every day we see news which warns us about the danger of hackers stealing our data and using it against us. But most of us are oblivious to the information that we consent to share every time that we use a variety of digital services, including social media, and the risks associated with sharing that information.
One market research firm has discovered some of the next level data gatherings headed our way. CB Insights recently published details of several patents granted to Facebook, as part of its efforts to deliver better content – and the level of intrusion into not just your personal life but your psyche is shocking.
The first patent, titled “Augmenting text messages with emotion information” suggests analyzing the end user’s input behavior on his phone, and interpreting that behavior to create emotional content. Facebook would take into consideration typing speed, how hard the user strikes the keys, the phone’s movements as interpreted by the onboard accelerometer, location, and so on. Then Facebook’s artificial intelligence would interpret this data, predict the emotion that it thought the user was experiencing, and modify the formatting of the text to match. For example, if Facebook decided you were angry, it could suggest angry emojis, or change the text to all caps as default.
The second patent, titled “Techniques for emotion detection and content delivery,” suggests taking photos of the user through available cameras without user interaction, and using the facial expressions of the user to determine whether he likes the displayed content, and adapting accordingly. So, say for example you love videos of puppies, and every time you see one you break out in a huge smile, this method would detect your affinity for puppies and increase the number of those videos in your feed.
The third patent that CB Insights reported on melds together the first two approaches. The patent titled “Systems and methods for dynamically generating emojis based on image analysis of facial features” imagines a system whereby Facebook grabs photo information of you while you are messaging, analyzes your facial expressions, and suggests appropriate emojis for you to choose. So, if your friend sends you a video of a wailing social justice warrior on inauguration day, and you erupt in laughter while it plays, Facebook might suggest some positive emojis. In fact, the graphics filed with the patent application suggest that Facebook might even include a “react” button which will automatically respond for you based on your facial expression.
Let’s look at Facebook’s Data Policy. Facebook says that they collect, “Things you do and information you provide,” which is everything; email address, photos, location, what you look at, how long you looked, and how you responded. They also collect “Things others do and information they provide,” about you. Then there is, “Your networks and connections,” or who you know, who you talk to, how often, and what you say. If you buy something, Facebook collects your payment info and billing and shipping details. They also gather information about your device, including type, manufacturer, operating system, battery strength, signal strength, device identifiers, location, and your internet information. They also collect information about you from other websites, third party partners, and other Facebook companies. As if that isn’t enough, they are considering the collection of information about your emotional state.
Facebook says that they only share this information to the extent necessary to better their target advertising for you, and only in a way that doesn’t identify you personally. And this is relatively honest. Up until now, Facebook has balanced their need for information about you and your desire for privacy fairly well. As reported in Lexis Legal News, they have gone to court to fight civil subpoenas, and even their responses to law enforcement are limited to the minimum required by statute.
But the problem with collecting personal data is that criminals can use it to steal, and the more data that exists in one place, the greater the incentive to grab it. Facebook is an enormous warehouse of data on almost two billion users. And if, as Facebook says, they are gathering payment information, which is particularly valuable, it is likely that they have the constant attention of hackers from around the world. I’m sure they have a great security team, but as Liberty Nation’s recent coverage reveals, no information security system is perfect.
And if Facebook’s security fails, there will be no putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. Your everything could be exposed. Facebook has it all. And now they are considering gathering information on your emotional state as well. What could go wrong?