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Facebook Patents Communications Social Networks Software Technology

Facebook Wants To Spy On People Using Their Phone's Camera and Analyze Facial Emotions (thesun.co.uk) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Sun: The social network applied for a patent to capture pictures of a user through their smartphone. The creepy designs, which date back to 2015, were discovered by software company CBI Insight, which has been analyzing Mark Zuckerberg's "emotion technology." Patent documents contain illustrations showing a person holding a smartphone with a camera taking a picture from which "emotion characteristics" like smiling or frowning are detected. If the person appears to like what they're seeing, Facebook could place more of the same type of content in front of them. Patents don't always make it through to the end product, so it's not clear whether Facebook will bring out this new feature. Researchers at CBI Insights warned that the plans could put a lot of people off using the service. Facebook appears to have tested out similar technology to work out which emoji to send to people using a selfie.
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Facebook Wants To Spy On People Using Their Phone's Camera and Analyze Facial Emotions

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  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @09:03AM (#54575989)

    This is why I always point my phone camera at my junk when reading Facebook.

    I don't want anonymous people on facebook seeing my face.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      This is why I always point my phone camera at my junk when reading Facebook.

      I don't want anonymous people on facebook seeing my face.

      Facebook tracking algorithm: He's bald and always winking, show him more ads for Rogaine and eye drops!

      • He's bald and always winking, show him more ads for Rogaine and eye drops!

        Meanwhile, more Captain Picard memes in the daily feed.

    • Here is a handy Facebook client for Android that provides access to Messenger:

      F-Droid Face Slim [f-droid.org]

      The above client is a 3rd-party open source wrapper. It will not update itself automatically without asking. It will not suddenly drain your battery dry. It will not access any sensors on your device without your approval. It will not gather your contacts and upload them for recruiting and advertising.

      Facebook does all of these things and more. Burn it off your phone with a blowtorch.

      • It's really a pity that A) more people don't know about how intrusive the Facebook apps are and B) that it took me so long to realize that very fact. No, Facebook, just because I have your Messenger app to keep in touch with people who I don't want to have my cellphone number doesn't mean that I want you to continually listen, even when I'm not using your app.
    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @10:17AM (#54576525)

      At least you know why everything thinks you are a dick.

    • by modi123 ( 750470 )

      Plot twist - good-guy facebook detects your testicular cancer and notifies you thus saving your balls and your life.

    • This is why I have neither Facebook nor a smartphone. I don't want anyone seeing, hearing, reading anything about me, or knowing my geographic location (GPS receiver physically disabled in my non-smartphone, which is off most of the time anyway).
  • by MiniMike ( 234881 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @09:07AM (#54576001)

    Would it be able to read hand gestures too? Because I know which one they'll get from my camera...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 08, 2017 @09:14AM (#54576045)

    Researchers at CBI Insights warned that the plans could put a lot of people off using the service.

    Bullshit. Facebook is already an unbelievably creepy source of intrusive personal surveillance, and people flock to it by the billions. They meet someone in real life they never told FB about, and suddenly see that person suggested as a FB friend, because FB detected their phones with he FB app installed came into close proximity.

    Most people simply do not care. There is no level of creepiness that could ever put them off. This would be marketed as a good thing, and people would eat it up like they do every other form of spying.

    • His advice? In no uncertain terms, delete your account immediately [stallman.org].

      This is far from a unique [entrepreneur.com] opinion [medium.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 08, 2017 @09:19AM (#54576079)

    This is just another step towards proving that. maybe the masses will never learn, maybe its too late, but at least i have started getting my friends and family to drop the app off of their phones. They are already spending more time outside and enjoying more of the world around them.

    It also removes the performance anxiety that facebook creates.

    Free your self from your voluntary slavery, facebook adds no net benefit to your life, only stress, anxiety and fake friends.

  • What would be interesting is letting AI observe the emotions and then letting it choose content to affect those emotions, to learn how it's actions affect the emotions. It's sort of a communication. Like you're talking to the news.
    • My thinking is that if FaceBook can access my phone and listen to me, then I can listen to CEO's and how they run their businesses. Hell I can listen and watch anyone for any reason. What could possibly go wrong with this?
    • Didn't FB already plan to do this? Wasn't there recently an article about FB learning to recognize, then manipulate and take advantage of vulnerable teens for corporate profits? it's exciting! It increases shareholder value!
  • ...we know why their webapp works so crappily on mobile browsers. Get the idiots to use the apps, which basically want root access.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hopefully enough said. I also hope to live to see the day when Zuckerberg is tried and convicted for stealing from all of us. They are shit.

  • by Tesen ( 858022 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @09:37AM (#54576239)

    If my phone can monitor my facial expressions while at work some AI is going to call the white coats on me or think I am about to go postal ;)

    • If you think that's bad, I got voted "As Most Likely to Go Postal" at one company. Supposedly because I'm too quiet when working and no one knows what would set me off. (I've seen enough BS in my life that it isn't worth the trouble to get upset about.) Which was funny since we had a guy who took a baseball to his cube — and wasn't fired for destroying company property. It didn't take me long to put my resume out.
    • Wouldn't it be more profitable and increase shareholder value more for FB to conduct an online vote on whether you should go postal or not? And let's not forget the huge crowd draw, and related advertising opportunities, for a FB Live should you decide to do so.

      But you can rest assured that FB would never take a side, one way or the other, on whether you should go postal or not. Nope. Nosiree.
  • Doesn't mean they will use it.

    If they have a patentable invention, they'll patent it. Patents have value. Other companies might want to licence it, or it might be something that can offer as part of a negotiation or settlement with another company.

    Maybe they will. Maybe they won't. Depends on whether they think this will make money.
  • ... people will see this as being a great idea. All hail facebook and their endless stream of brilliant ideas!
  • Given their track record, if facebook says they want to do this, chances are they're already doing it somewhere as a test.

    • Given their track record, if facebook says they want to do this, chances are they're already doing it somewhere as a test.

      I guarantee they're doing it in a "testing" mode to some of their users. That's a given.

  • Facebook applied for a patent.
    If the patent is granted, only Facebook will be able to spy on you like this. Or at least, it will require other parties do deal with Facebook first before they can implement this technology for themselves.
    And if you are privacy conscious, you probably don't use Facebook, so that's a win.

  • I refuse to install the Facebook and Messenger app, in part for crap like this. So previously if I had to respond to a FB message on the go, I would open up Chrome and go to Messenger.com, no problem. Now, when I do, and type, something weird happens - only one word appears. When I type a second word, the first disappears, and just that word is there. I can't type out a sentence. I tried it with Firefox, and can't even log into Messenger.com - it just hangs on the main page saying "Sign in with Facebook to

  • The amount of outrage shown by a few about intrusiveness of Facebook is quite quaint.

    If Facebook interfaces with a continuous blood flow monitor, people would proudly broadcast their harmone levels to the whole world.

  • If you keep stopping computers from watching your emotions in the background, you're never gonna have cool science fiction wonders like the Ash, David, and HAL 9000 lines.

  • by mrflash818 ( 226638 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @12:00PM (#54577397) Homepage Journal

    ...just like you do on your home PC. It's your life. Control your own privacy as best you can, if you still choose to use a smart phone.

    When you want to do selfies, fine, it's your choice, and then uncover the camera, otherwise, keep the camera covered.

    For the really hard-core, do not even own a smart phone. Use the free-with-your-plan models that just voice and text and camera, and have a removable battery. Keep the phone in a case that covers the camera lens, blacking it out, and making any attempts to covertly take pictures when you do not want it to, not possible. Remove the battery when not in use.

    • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @12:38PM (#54577703)

      Keep the camera covered up just like you do on your home PC.

      Or, just don't have a Facebook account. Problem solved.

      But if you want to have to constantly take countermeasures against an entity that TELLS YOU it's going to spy on you, be my guest.

      Having Facebook on your phone is like inviting a crack-addicted thief to live in your home and then rationalizing to yourself the need to hire a security guard to watch him 24 hours a day.

  • As if I needed another reason not to have a Facebook account...

  • Smartphones need an activity light (i.e., the little light that shows the camera is active/recording) like fucking yesterday. Every time I'm doing something on my phone I have no idea if the fucker is watching me back.

  • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @01:14PM (#54577977)

    See above. The only application that I allow to access my phone's camera (knowingly, anyway) is the camera application.

    Does Facebook even realize that many companies don't allow camera on the premises? Heck, I can recall it was nearly ten years ago sitting in company meetings where sensitive business plans were to be discussed and everyone was asked to turn off their phones and put them away. And it wasn't because of the potential for an annoying ringtone interrupting the meeting. Corporate espionage aside, the invasion of privacy that something like this potentially opens up is mind boggling. It sure seems to me that they're not thoroughly thinking through these ideas before making them public.

  • All these approaches to "read" emotion from people's faces are going to fail because faces don't broadcast emotion [nytimes.com]. Recent research shows that emotions are constructed [lisafeldmanbarrett.com] differently from person to person, from situation to situation.

  • Maybe Facebook's business model is based on patenting ideas stolen from dystopian literature (e.g. 1984, Farenheit 451, Brave New World, etc.)?
  • ... an subject or person will cause said person/subject to appear more or less. I bet they track mouse actions as well. Facebook will be able to predict how you feel about most subjects to a pretty high percentage very soon... if not already

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell