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Facebook Patents Inferring Income of Users 129

theodp writes "Among the patents granted to Facebook this week by the USPTO is one for Inferring Household Income for Users of a Social Networking System. 'For example,' Facebook explains, 'an assumption might be made about a user that reads CNN.com and nytimes.com every day that the user is in a higher income bracket than another user that only reads TMZ.com and PerezHilton.com on the theory that a user who reads newspapers might be assumed to make more money than a user who only reads celebrity gossip blogs.' Advertisements such as those for travel packages, cars, and home mortgages, Facebook adds, 'are targeted to users based on income bracket,' which might also be inferred by 'gathering and analyzing different types of information about a user's geographic location.' Hey, what could go wrong?"
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Facebook Patents Inferring Income of Users

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  • by excursive ( 2823185 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @01:43PM (#45627435)
    It doesn't really matter if the algorithm is wrong for an individual, as long as it it generally correct for the population.
  • This is pointless (Score:5, Informative)

    by sugar and acid ( 88555 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @01:43PM (#45627439)

    The reason Facebook has any advertising income, and therefore value as a company, is that it has the ability to provide very directed advertising.

    If you want to target people who read cnn.com and nytimes.com, why not just advertise there like you always could.

  • Re:uhm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @02:42PM (#45627845) Homepage

    I've just finished reading the claims and scanning the description and found no part of it that should be patentable; anybody reasonably skilled in statistics would end up with something similar or even identical. Heck, I'd even end up with something pretty much the same, and I have no formal background in statistics.
    Also note that the patent names the required activities only (mostly it just lists potential sources of data); it does not explain the methods or mechanisms used to perform those activities.

  • Re:He jokes (Score:5, Informative)

    by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @02:56PM (#45627939)

    Statistics doesn't pigeon-hole you. It discovers what factors tend to influence people grouped with you, by how much, and how reliably. Like psychohistory, it only works on groups, the larger the better. The "pigeon-hole" is fuzzy and somewhat arbitrary. You still (maybe) have free will and are an individual... just like everybody else.

  • Re:Racist! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @03:37PM (#45628185)

    It's a statistical measure. People who read such things generally have a low income. The fact that you specifically read them and don't have a low income is irrelevant; the advertisers don't care about you as an individual. The large number of people who do fit the profile make the advertising more lucrative to a degree which far overwhelms the small number of people like you who make it less lucrative.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"