Have you ever heard of people receiving Facebook “friend suggestions” that were so accurate that they were creepy? Maybe one night they attended a party and only talked to one person, then somehow woke up the next morning to find that Facebook had suggested the person friend-request them!
It happens more often than you think, and there is a perfectly legal reason for it! The social media site uses technology to connect two people based on the metadata from cameras used to upload photos and the data embedded into those pictures (data like GPS coordinates where the picture was taken). Even scratches and dust marks in the pictures could be used to identify a specific camera that was used to take the picture.
Facebook is legally allowed to do all of this, but people only know that the company even had the idea to do that because of a series of patents they filed in 2014 and 2015. If someone else uses their invention (in this case the technology) without permission, they can be taken to court and sued!
One of the patents is titled ‘Systems and methods for utilizing wireless communications to suggest connections for a user’ and explains how logged smartphone data can be used to make friend recommendations. The algorithm incorporates other information as well, like the amount of time between two wireless communications (uploading and receiving a photo) or the signal strength at the time of the data exchange. With those seemingly impersonal bits of information, Facebook is able to recognize and identify when two people are walking together or facing each other.
Another of the patents is titled ‘Associating cameras with users and objects in a social networking system’ and highlights how data from photos uploaded to the site can be used to connect people. The ‘data’ that is compared isn’t just 1s and 0s… The patent details how the information used to identify the photographer could be as simple as a file name or as complex as a dust particle on a camera lens that appears in the same place in multiple photos (which suggest they were taken by the same camera, like a photographic fingerprint).
1) Even if the processes Facebook patented are lawful, what are the implications for non-users that get identified by the algorithm?
2) Imagine this: You’re a privacy hound who doesn’t use social media sites because you like to control the use of your data simply because you don’t like mega corporations. Let’s say you’re also a photographer, and you post photos to a website. If a fan of yours shared a photo on Facebook and labeled you as the photographer, would Facebook have a legal right to identify other pictures you’d taken with the same camera even if you weren’t the person uploading them to the website?
3) What could a non-user do to fight this system?
Be sure to provide full explanations for each of your answers. For more details, you can read the article this piece was sourced from here:
Contributed by – J. Plummer