Facebook Patents Algorithm to Determine Socioeconomic Status

Attribution @Christopher
Attribution @Christopher


Facebook users should be more aware of what streams down their timeline and information they enter into their profiles.

A new patent from the social media giant describes a system that would use data points it collects on the user to predict their socioeconomic status. Data points include education, travel history, the number of devices owned, and homeownership.

Here’s how it works: the patent describes a system that uses a decision tree and said data points to classify users. Certain data points would be assigned to probability scores to predict the user’s socioeconomic class. High school, college and graduate degrees, for example, would be assigned different weights. The same would go for different neighborhoods and pieces of information, which would be added together to produce a score indicating what socioeconomic status a person might be. The decision tree also includes global information from market research questionnaires.

Facebook envisions a system to guess whether a user is in the “middle” class and mentions two other classes, but does not specify their titles. Interestingly enough, the system will not ask users about their income. ‘Online systems often do not have information about the income of users, for example, because the users are typically not inclined to share income information, which may be sensitive information, on online systems,’ the patent states.

The social network is already under fire for knowing too much about its users. The patent, which was filed in July 2016 and published on February 1, comes after news of another recent Facebook patent that would allow the company to detect and respond to users’ emotions.

People are speculating that the new system will be used to better target ads and content to specific audiences.

Despite the scrutiny, Facebook says it might not do anything with the patent. “We often seek patents for technology we never implement, and patents should not be taken as an indication of future plans,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

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