Facebook wants to get up close and personal with its users after a patent was revealed detailing a desire to secretly watch users through their online chat webcam or smartphone camera, spying on your mood in order to sell you tailored content or advertisements.
As part of the idea, Facebook would watch people through a camera in real time as they browse online. The technology would then determine a persons emotions, based on whether they look sad, happy or bored.
Recently, FBI Director James Comey and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg made headlines when the public learned both men use tape to cover up the cameras on their computers. So long as the camera is clearly blocked and no one can see through the tape, you’re good. Straightforward duct tape will work, but it might make your laptop sticky when you take it off. You can also use painter’s tape, which won’t leave as much residue when you peel it off.
The patent, called ‘Techniques for emotion detection and content delivery’ was discovered by CB Insights, a marketintelligence firm based in New York (stock image).The New York-based intelligence firm “On the one hand, they want to identify which content is most engaging through the online chat webcam and respond to audience’s reactions, on the other emotion-detection is technically difficult, not to mention a PR and ethical minefield.” Other techniques listed by Facebook in regard to tailoring adverts, include using technology which would monitor how hard or fast a person is typing and whether the user included emoji’s within a message.
They believe this can also be an indication of a person’s emotional state.
Facebook filed its initial patent application in 2015.
Facebook wants to get up personal with its users after a patent was revealed detailing a desire to secretly watch users through their webcam
— The Telegraff News (@omilosimon) July 17, 2017
Facebook explained 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 online chat webcam monitoring 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.
The social network has filed several patents over the years on emotion-based technology but this, based on ‘passive imaging data’ is perhaps the most unnerving, considering it would take control of cameras that weren’t even switched on by the user.
Kevin Haley, director of security response at Norton by Symantec, says users should maintain “basic security practices” to prevent someone from spying on your online chat webcam, including keeping operating systems up to date, using strong security software, and being extra careful clicking on any links or attachments sent by email or through social networks.
Then, of course, there’s the tape thing. Retailers like Amazon also sell online chat webcam covers ranging in price between $4-$8.
To illustrate how the system would work, Facebook created a fictitious person, called Desmond Jones. The patent says: ‘It appears from the profile that the user, Desmond Jones, was looking away from his online chat webcam device during a kitten video posted by Tim Boone.
‘Thus, a content delivery system may determine to exclude videos of that type in the future.
‘In another example, it appears that the user has watched an advertisement for scotch. Thus, in the future, more advertisements for scotch may be displayed to the user.’