Facebook has filed a patent for a predictive method of determining (inferring) the income of each of their users, to allow their advertisers to target you. To do this, they are mining your information – the amount of which is staggering (their words right in the patent application!) – incuding what you post in your timeline.
If you think that Facebook isn’t watching everything you do – and closely – here is what they say in the preamble to the patent application:
In recent years, users of social networking systems have shared their interests and engaged with other users of the social networking systems by sharing photos, real-time status updates, and playing social games. The amount of information gathered from users is staggering – information describing recent moves to a new city, graduations, births, engagements, marriages, and the like. Social networking systems have been passively recording this information as part of the user experience, but social networking systems have lacked tools to synthesize this information about users for targeting advertisements based on their perceived income.
And, as they go on to explain, “Information about users’ household income is very valuable to advertisers that seek to market luxury goods and services to these users.”
Are you starting to feel like the proverbial frog in the pot of water?
They go on to say that advertisers, who, after all, are Facebook’s real customers, purchase analytical data all the time, offering the example that “websites on the Internet track people comparing car prices and filling out a form for a test drive at a local dealership and sell this information to advertisers.” The advertiser makes an inference about the disposable income of these people because they are shopping for a car.
But never before has a social network come up with a workable way to methodically analyze its user data and make a guess as to the income level of each user.
With this move, Facebook intends to change that.
Now Facebook will be able to charge an advertiser more if the advertiser wants to target only users who have, for example, an income of $100,000 or more. Or perhaps in a bid to play on reverse exclusivity, an advertiser may want to pitch an “affordable solution” to users who make less than $35,000 a year.
The primary “claim” of the patent is “A method comprising: receiving information about users of a social networking system, the information describing connections between users of the social networking system and actions taken by users on the social networking system, and comprises for each user, an analysis of posted content by the user that indicates a higher-than-average income potential or a lower-than-average income potential as compared to other analyses of posted content by other users in the social networking system; defining, by a computer processor, a predictive model of an income bracket of an income distribution of the users of the social networking system by selecting predictive factors based on the received information about the users in the income bracket; and defining ranges for the income bracket based on the received information.”
So, what do you think of this?
Should you wish to, you can read the full Facebook Income Inference Patent here.
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