How Facebook could use photos to learn about your family
We all are aware of Facebook's ad-delivery practices. The company uses the information you share (numbers, interests) to target you with ads and earn money. But, if a new patent is anything to go by, the company could take its ad-targeting ambitions to new heights by learning about your family - using your photos. Here's how this could happen.
System to predict household characteristics from photos
The patent, filed in 2017 and unearthed recently, details a tech that could pick unique identifiers from photos - either posted or tagged ones. Then, by combining these identifiers/clues with facial recognition, the system could predict whom you're living with and interacting with most. The resulting information would give Facebook a way to build detailed household profiles and use that information for targeting ads.
Patent clearly mentions the technology's use
"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 reads.
How the system would learn about your family?
Facebook already uses your relationships, last names, and shared life events to predict who might be your family members. But, this particular system takes a more sophisticated approach and looks for faces in photos that could reveal how they are related to you. It would also collate information like captions, comments, or even tags like #family, #mom, #kids.
Even IP addresses might be used
The patent also notes that the system might analyze your "messaging history, past tagging history, [and] web browsing history" to check IP address and confirm the number of household members on the same address.
What other information this system could mine from photos?
Apart from whom you're living with, the patent doesn't highlight what other demographic information it could mine. However, going by Facebook's data policy, it could be gender, age, or socioeconomic status. The company could build entire household profiles and then use shared interests to target those members who are on Facebook.
However, no word on actual implementation
While Facebook already has an option to target entire households with ads, it is imperative to note that there is no guarantee if the system will actually come into use. It is just a patent at this stage - one filed well before Facebook's recent privacy-related debacles - and the social network could very well not implement it at all.