It seems like every week new news emerges regarding Facebook’s handling of our personal data. Now, new reports show that Facebook may be able to predict where you’re headed even before you arrive.
On December 6, Facebook filed a new patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office titled “Offline Trajectories,” which may allow the online giant to know what your next location will be even if you’re not online.
The new feature uses prior destinations to guess where your next destination is likely to be. This information would translate into personally directed ads. “The computer model is generated using machine learning and metadata associated with users who were at the respective candidate geographic location,” the patent abstract reads.
Other related patents filed by the social media platform include:
Using prior logged locations to create a profile that focuses on your favorite restaurants, stores, etc.
Predicting if you’re going somewhere that may have less-than-spectacular Wi-Fi.
Preloading news content that relates to where you’re going.
BuzzFeed tech reporter Nicole Nguyen recommends:
Turning off location sharing on the Facebook app.
Not checking into locations on Facebook.
Deleting the app entirely and logging into the mobile site.
Facebook, however, has already countered with its own measures. “We often seek patents for technology we never implement, and patent applications — such as this one — should not be taken as an indication of future plans,” a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
This has not been a stellar year for the social media platform. In July, the company announced it had deleted 17 accounts related to 2018 US elections for national, state and local political elections, revealing that “whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past. We believe this could be partly due to changes we’ve made over the last year to make this kind of abuse much harder.”
In September, the company saw a drop in its share price by 3% as a result of a security breach, which inadvertently revealed the data of 50 million users. The data breach, which began in July 2017 wasn’t discovered until September 2018 after it was shown that attackers used a vulnerability in the “view as” profile feature to obtain illegal access to users’ accounts. Facebook then decided to notify those affected and log them out of their accounts. Then in October, a Texas woman sued the company after she claimed she had been recruited into prostitution at the age of 15 by a user who “friended” her on the social media network. Facebook has responded by saying that it is working internally and externally to ban sex traffickers.
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