Viewed cynically, Santa Claus’ operation could be construed as a highly effective surveillance agency.
Viewed cynically, the same could be said for Facebook’s data empire, which, according to a Buzzfeed report on a trio of patents filed by the social media company, could someday be predicting the movements of its users — even when they are offline.
Titled “Offline Trajectories,” one patent reportedly describes a method for predicting where users will go next based on their current location. This method uses the data of individual users, as well as contacts and nearby strangers, to calculate probable destinations.
Kris Kringle has claimed near omniscience regarding the past and the present, but the future? Mark Zuckerberg wins this round.
The patent, filed in May 2017, appeared in a Buzzfeed story on Dec. 10. A Facebook spokesman said the company often seeks patents it never implements. Just because it applied for the rights to “Offline Trajectories” doesn’t necessarily mean Facebook will use it.
Still, the idea of Facebook more or less knowing the daily schedules of its users is a little unnerving…if we forget that many give up that information voluntarily through their profiles and status updates.
Another patent, also reported by Buzzfeed, pretty much explains itself. This one is titled “Location Prediction Using Wireless Signals on Online Social Networks.” “Wireless Signals” include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular, and near-field communication signals, that last one being the tech wizardry enabling “no touch” features of mobile payment systems like ApplePay.
The third patent — whose title is also very long and boring — further explains how Facebook might stitch together the data of complete strangers to predict movement.
Facebook already uses location data for a number of functions within the app. But, Facebookers may not particularly care if the social network suggests stopping by TJ Maxx on the way home from work.
After all, people seem fine with Santa knowing everything. Maybe they will be cool when Mark Zuckerberg does?
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