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Facebook Patents Inferring Income of Users

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.

Facebook 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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Browse anonymously (2)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | about a year ago | (#45627429)

Browse anonymously
This is why I use EasyPrivacy list in adblock plus to keep Facebook from getting that info. They know you read a page if it has a "Like" button on it.

Re:Browse anonymously (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627687)

Browse anonymously

Excellent; that puts you into a group of 0.001%. As a highly technically literate user you will have monthly household income of between 10,000 and 11,500 (95% chance) and are less likely to want pop star accessories. However, there is a 30% increase in the chance of you purchasing electronic gadgets. The correlation of your IP address with a slashdot reader decreases your chance of wanting to buy wedding accessories by over 99.72%.

Stay anon; please.

He jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627859)

Parent jokes, but it's really eerie the way the marketing statisticians come up with this stuff.

It brings up a whole philosophical question: if we can be pigeon holed so easily, are we really as free thinking as we think we are?

Re:He jokes (4, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year ago | (#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:He jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45629279)

I don't think the contributor was saying this, rather just making the point that for the purposes of targeting you with advertising, the fact that you use AdBlock Plus is enough information to guess your income and serve you up appropriate adverts, some of the very information you were trying to hide by using AdBLock in the first place.

Re:He jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45629371)

Free will is an illusion: it argues that given an otherwise identical individual, except for the free will component, within an identical environment, with an identical sample space, the outcome will be different. That doesn't work, because free will is conditioned on everything else. Human behaviour, like all dynamical systems, are determined by the social-environment interactions, which influence, and are influenced by, cognition styles. They are complex, and essentially chaotic systems: small changes produce enormous results sometimes. But the idea that two identical humans will produce different results to the exact same situation and stimuli is ridiculous.

Re:Browse anonymously (1)

Bovius (1243040) | about a year ago | (#45628919)

*slow clap*

Absolutely magnificent. Thank you, this made my day.

Re:Browse anonymously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627689)

Based on your username, I know you're a straight heterosexual male that bathes regularly and does not live in his parents basement. You probably makes lots of money and get lots of pussy.

Re:Browse anonymously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627779)

stop replying to yourself
and anybody that has a username ${whatever}is${bad} must surely get lots of pussy, yeah [/sarcasm]

Re:Browse anonymously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45628099)

anybody that has a username ${whatever}is${bad} must surely get lots of pussy

Even "PussyIsBad"?

Re:Browse anonymously (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year ago | (#45628989)

Browse anonymously This is why I use EasyPrivacy list in adblock plus to keep Facebook from getting that info. They know you read a page if it has a "Like" button on it.

I just block Facebook in my proxy and/or router.

Re:Browse anonymously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45629029)

Browse anonymously
This is why I use EasyPrivacy list in adblock plus to keep Facebook from getting that info. They know you read a page if it has a "Like" button on it.

it also blocks the comment sections on a lot of sites. I wish there were an easy way to white-list the comments and still get rid of the annoying share and like buttons - especially the ones that scroll down the page with you.

patenting statistical hypothesis? (1)

weakref (2554172) | about a year ago | (#45627433)

FB, you shouldn't stop there! just patent all statistical research!

Re:patenting statistical hypothesis? (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#45627923)

don't forget to throw in claims about 'heuristics', 'on a computer' and 'over the internet'.

Re: patenting statistical hypothesis? (3, Insightful)

jonnyj (1011131) | about a year ago | (#45628051)

This is patently absurd. In the UK, Equifax, Experian and Call Credit already sell income predictions based on statistical modelling of credit bureau information. How is switching the underlying data set in any way a unique or clever thing to do?

This is nothing more than a fancy regression algorithm.

Re: patenting statistical hypothesis? (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#45628783)

Advertisers already do this - broadsheet newspapers attract a different set of advertisers than tabloids and quite a few engineers are telegraph readers as historically Thursdays was the day that all the engineering jobs where advertized likewise Wednesdays for the Guardian and social work jobs.

I can remember being told to say that you read a proper newspaper (times telegraph or guardian) in job interviews for professional jobs to mark out that you where one of us and not some over promoted clerical assistant who read the daily mail.

Re: patenting statistical hypothesis? (1)

gronofer (838299) | about a year ago | (#45629501)

Besides the obvious prior art, the patent also seems to be incomplete. I haven't read it in detail, but a quick scan suggests that they have patented the analysis of data using methods such as "heuristics analysis module 308" which are not further specified. Do they expect to have a patent for the very idea of heuristics analysis for the given application? I was always lead to believe that ideas aren't patentable, only specific inventions, so shouldn't they be describing exactly what this "heuristics analysis module 308" is doing? Shouldn't I have been given enough information to replicate the entire method, so that the public domain is actually enriched in some way once the patent expires? If I use my own "heuristics analysis module 310" instead, will I be fine?

Re:patenting statistical hypothesis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45629013)

FB, you shouldn't stop there! just patent all statistical research!

This.

I've worked in marketing research for 2 decades and this has been standard practice since the business became seriously massive in the 80s. I am not a statistician myself but have both a psych and maths background and work close with the statisticians because I'm usually the one who has to provide the source data and make the results available, so I have a pretty good grasp of how the process works on a detailed level. Even then I am always still amazed at how, given a large and detailed enough sample, they can come up with the most esoteric statistical correlations that on an intuitive level don't make any sense at all. If there is enough accurate data, a statistician can predict with recent accuracy how much you earn based on your mother's maiden name, the average cloud coverage in your area of residence, and the size of your right nut.

Re:patenting statistical hypothesis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45630131)

This.

That?

Doesn't matter if it goes a bit wrong (5, Informative)

excursive (2823185) | about a year ago | (#45627435)

It doesn't really matter if the algorithm is wrong for an individual, as long as it it generally correct for the population.

Re:Doesn't matter if it goes a bit wrong (2, Interesting)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#45628211)

Yes, but a typical Slashdot geek thinks that an invention has to be 100% perfect to be useful at all.

Re:Doesn't matter if it goes a bit wrong (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#45629373)

There is no level of perfection at which an invention to benefit advertisers becomes useful at all. In fact, the farther from perfection, the less dis-utility it will have for society.

This is pointless (4, Informative)

sugar and acid (88555) | about a year ago | (#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:This is pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627529)

Good point.
People have adapted to newspaper advertising. It is expected.

FB advertising, on the other hand, is just plain annoying and interferes with your reading.

I would guess, in the absence of peer reviewed research or a MSNBC story, that FB advertising may have more of a negative effect than the buyers think

Yet Another Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627599)

Add this to an ever growing list of reasons to NEVER use Facebook.

Re:Yet Another Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45628277)

Mod parent up.

Re:Yet Another Reason (2)

aiken_d (127097) | about a year ago | (#45628761)

Also, don't go to retail stores because they can tell a lot about you by the way you dress and talk.

Re:Yet Another Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45628931)

They can't.

Re:This is pointless (3, Interesting)

Rhyas (100444) | about a year ago | (#45627661)

I can think of a couple of reasons to not go direct in this case:

1) It's possibly more expensive to advertise on CNN or NYT.
2) There's no inherent ability to "share" or "like" an ad. (yes, people do it)

Facebook adds value not only for the targeting, but for the "social" nature of it's platform.

Re:This is pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627751)

Presumably, the advantage to marketing scum is the ability to combine the "reads NY Times" info with all other web-browsing habits. The NY Times readership isn't a completely monolithic demographic; further subdivision allows even more powerful creepy intrusive advertising.

Re:This is pointless (1)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about a year ago | (#45627887)

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.

I think the phrase "For example" implies the answer. They're giving that as one example of how you can infer somebody's income, but the whole point of aggregating as much info as possible about somebody is that you have more factors available. If somebody reads cnn and nytimes daily, they are more likely to be wealthier. If they read cnn, nytimes, meet 10 other factors that imply their income, live in an area with a hot real estate market, and have been looking at real estate related websites, then you're gonna be more successful when server those people ads for mortgages than a random cnn reader.

Re:This is pointless (4, Insightful)

McGruber (1417641) | about a year ago | (#45628387)

A small clarification:

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

Re:This is pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45628843)

So they can get that money instead?

another worthless patent.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627447)

Another drop in the ocean of stupidity. How long until the politicians realise this slows the whole economy down? I'm not holding my breath....;-(

uhm... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627451)

They do know everyone selling data + advertising already does this, right? This is a VERY obvious use of aggregated data.

I declare Shenanigans!

Shenanigans on Facebook!
Shenanigans on the USPTO!

They are trying to scam us now and it needs to be stopped Officer Barbrady!

Re:uhm... (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#45627705)

They do know everyone selling data + advertising already does this, right? This is a VERY obvious use of aggregated data.

Before you make such a judgement, you might want to actually read the patent. Slashdot summaries almost always completely misrepresent what is actually covered in the claims section of the patent.

Re:uhm... (4, Informative)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#45627845)

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:uhm... (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#45628637)

So basically it's about as deserving as the vast majority of software patents that are granted.

Re:uhm... (0)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#45629147)

I've just finished reading the claims and scanning the description and found no part of it that should be patentable...

You are, of course, a professional in the field of statistics and modeling? Marketing perhaps? You are maybe a patent lawyer?

No?

You're just some arm-chair pontificater?

I thought so.

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.

Complete bullshit. The "Detailed Description" goes way beyond what you suggest.

Certainly such a patent is asinine, but your over-simplistic "argument" - such that it is - does not address any of the issues and in fact is the standard type of argument from people that have no clue as to how to read a patent.

Re:uhm... (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#45629615)

Do you have any examples or arguments to back up your ad hominem attacks?

Re:uhm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45629713)

...ad hominem attacks

When you use words like that, are you sitting in from of a mirror masturbating?

Whatcha gonna do bout me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627471)

Jokes on you FB... I read all of those websites every day.

Do they get royalties (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | about a year ago | (#45627475)

Whenever someone uses a correlation statistic? What about when someone uses a set of data to infer something about other populations?

It may sound an awful lot like they patented statistics, correlations, and sampling, but it's different 'cause it's on a social network. Totally different.

wonder what they infer about me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627477)

I post 5 times a year and only sign on via VPNs, never my real IP..

My salary is public record anyway. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627481)

My low, low, government salary.

What about patent lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627489)

Can I file a claim that (oh sorry, "what is claimed is that...") the lawyers filing patents for Facebook make even more money on average than readers of CNN.com of nytimes.com?

i love targeted advertising! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627513)

Coming soon to slashdot, targeted Linux distribution adverts. Can slashdot infer what distro you are into based on your browsing history? this AC thinks yes.

Re:i love targeted advertising! (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#45628229)

Linux Mint users should be easy targets, as they always openly brag how they switched to it from Ubuntu.

The redlining link is interesting (1)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about a year ago | (#45627543)

Not sure how redlining applies here, seems like much of a stretch from the 1934 National Housing Act [wikipedia.org] * proscribing to the FHA to create redlining three decades before it got that name, to displaying advertisements based on viewing habits.

*See first paragraph in the History section of submitters link on redlining. [wikipedia.org]

Re:The redlining link is interesting (4, Interesting)

theodp (442580) | about a year ago | (#45627613)

The patent specifically suggests using inferred income for targeting mortgage offers, which the Wikipedia article notes has been a ripe area for abuse: "Reverse redlining occurs when a lender or insurer targets minority consumers, not to deny them loans or insurance, but rather to charge them more than could be charged to a comparable majority consumer whose business is more sought after"

Re:The redlining link is interesting (2)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about a year ago | (#45627787)

The patent specifically suggests using inferred income for targeting mortgage offers, which the Wikipedia article notes has been a ripe area for abuse: "Reverse redlining occurs when a lender or insurer targets minority consumers, not to deny them loans or insurance, but rather to charge them more than could be charged to a comparable majority consumer whose business is more sought after"

That is even more of a stretch. The Facebook scheme is nothing more than presenting advertising to people based on viewing habits, not some scheme to deny people the opportunity to risk future treasure on real property.

Re:The redlining link is interesting (2)

theodp (442580) | about a year ago | (#45627945)

Viewing habits here, Facebook explains, are just a proxy for income bracket,, which will be used to categorize and target users. And, as this article on Digital Inclusion and data profiling [firstmonday.org] notes, "Digitally dependent surveillant technologies do work differently in how they collect, categorize, target, and overall exploit users. As these technologies emerge as central to the current economy, old forms of prejudice and injustice can be grafted onto these new tools." Doesn't have to be that way, sure, but sometimes people have a hard time restraining themselves when big money is involved. :-)

Re:The redlining link is interesting (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year ago | (#45627961)

Absolutely. Someone else already has the patent on adjusting prices depending on someone's net usage.

Re:The redlining link is interesting (2)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about a year ago | (#45628145)

One thing I am absolutely not arguing is the ridiculous notion that anything like this should be eligible for a patent at all.

Re:The redlining link is interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627797)

Otherwise stated, presenting you with one ad over another is in no way denying you the opportunity to purchase a product.

scary (1)

avivgr (1556371) | about a year ago | (#45627575)

what's next? inferring men genitalia size? i can't believe the general public just doesn't care about their privacy being so violated in exchange for a beef stew. But then i heard that having no facebook profile is an indicator for being a psychopath, so who knows anymore.

Re:scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627657)

There's a reason why any form of targeted advertising exists*. It's because people don't care about their privacy.

* arguably any form of advertising

Re:scary (1)

game kid (805301) | about a year ago | (#45628941)

They're already inferring men's size, and always small at that ("do you want to be BIGGER?" "is your erectile dysfunction holding you back?" "when the moment is right, will your donger be ready?").

Re:scary (1)

atomicxblue (1077017) | about a year ago | (#45629307)

I don't know what I'm more scared about -- the invasion of privacy from companies like this, or that the word privacy had only appeared on this page 3 times when I made this post. They already take what you purchase on those loyalty cards, match it up with your credit card info, which is then sold to an ad company. You then have those news stories where the advertisers know a woman is pregnant before the father does. This is exactly why I have a fake name I use online. It may not help, but it'll throw them off some.

Re:scary (1)

avivgr (1556371) | about a year ago | (#45630063)

Yes i use duckduckgo as my homepage and colleagues at work laugh at me telling me i'm paranoid. Young kids don't even understand what the issue is about, they happily give away their privacy like it doesnt matter.

A method for stereotype abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627591)

A system for applying common stereotypes to circumvent privacy restrictions that is not covered by the DMCA...

Profiling... (1, Offtopic)

ElitistWhiner (79961) | about a year ago | (#45627647)

In a post-capitalist economy, this is the 1% new power version of racial profiling. Think of it as a form of denial of services. You'll never see what the 1% does much less enjoy. Knowledge is power and denying information denies access to all but the 1% who matter.

Re:Profiling... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627681)

My income level would be dinged as very low then.

For some reason I enjoy reading trash. Hey .... slashdot one of my favorites... :)

Honestly I am with the dad from Christmas story. 'thats real news not like that political slop'

Re:Profiling... (5, Insightful)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#45627827)

"Post-capitalist"? We're reaching the zenith of everything Capitalism has sought to achieve. Record income disparities with unparalleled wealth for the super-wealthy, concentrating control over every aspect of society in the hands of a tiny elite. Thanks to Facebook, "the markets" (a.k.a. billionaire investors) even control human social interactions once considered sacrosanct from corporate intrusion. The Capitalist economy is all about the ascendancy of the 1% (and the 0.01% within that).

Re:Profiling... (1)

atomicxblue (1077017) | about a year ago | (#45629381)

Unfettered capitalism will eventually bring the US to its knees if the current income disparity continues to widen. If Congress wants to pass the 'Kicking Puppies and Kittens Act of 2013', the regular people will have no say in the matter once businesses open their wallets and pull out their "free speech". Right now, we have a peasant class, head above water class and a royal class, without the titles or noblesse oblige.

Side note: I know Futurama did it as a joke, but it's scary to think how accurate they will be when companies are able to beam ads directly into our eyes from whatever high tech glasses we're using in the future.

TiVo did this kind of thing already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627691)

http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/archive/index.php/t-287253.html

I want to create an app (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#45627717)

Well, I hack c++ for a living in my day job, and don't have the time to hack out apps. Wish I have the time to hack out a code to let users launch an app, that will silently log into facebook, and then browse all the high brow, high income indicating sites in the background, without ever displaying anything on screen. It should also have random delays, and estimated time to read a page to create proper dwell times on pages. Or write a random web crawling app whose main job is to cover so much of the internet there is no effective pattern.

If enough users launch it, it will completely mess up all these statistical correlations and eventually provide anonymity by increasing the noise.

Re:I want to create an app (2)

brit74 (831798) | about a year ago | (#45628333)

I detected a flaw in your idea: "If enough users launch it". There's virtually no benefit for anyone to install this app except to make a very tiny contribution to undermining Facebook's algorithm (while eating up your wireless data), and most people don't really care enough about that to do the work. Your idea seems like a clever way to undermine Facebooks algorithms, but it won't actually be used widely enough to make a dent in the system, which means it's gives people false hope that you this thing can be undermined. Personally, I'm actually less bothered by the fact that Facebook can infer income based on web-browsing habits, and I'm more bothered by the fact that it can be patented. It makes me want to destroy the patent system, because if stuff like this can be patented, our patent system is broken.

Re:I want to create an app (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45629033)

Three words for you on how to full fill the crucial "If enough users launch it" step:
Trojan
horse
apps

It's not like people care about what permissions they give to their run of the mill flashlight app [slashdot.org]

Mixing issues (2)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about a year ago | (#45627721)

If algorithms can be patented, then sure. If FB is using a unique algorithm to infer income, it might be granted (that I think patenting mathematics is absurd is irrelevant - if you believe your algorithm is so great, keep it a secret. Application of mathematics to one area shouldn't be patentable). I'd be surprised if Amazon doesn't look at your shopping history and suggest products in your price range. If I never bought anything over $25, why should they show me a product costing over $10,000?

On the other hand, what does this have to do with redlining? My outrage that statistics is being patented has nothing to do with the fact that FB should be allowed to show whatever ads to whomever they please. They are not a government organization (and haven't taken taxpayer money) that shouldn't be allowed to discriminate between consumers.

Isn't this exactly what marketing research (3, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#45627735)

Isn't this exactly what marketing research companies have done before. A quick web search says [caci.co.uk] :

corn is a powerful consumer classification that segments the UK population. By analysing demographic data, social factors, population and consumer behaviour, it provides precise information and an understanding of different types of people. Acorn provides valuable consumer insight helping you target, acquire and develop profitable customer relationships and improve service delivery.

This is just another case of adding "... on a computer" or "... over wifi" to something that's already an established practice to gain a patent.

Prior Art (1)

kramer2718 (598033) | about a year ago | (#45628383)

Agreed. There is probably plenty of prior art, but one would be crazy to challenge the patent because:

  1. That would give away a trade secret
  2. Facebook could crush most competitors in patent suits

Congratulations, Facebook, you are a patent troll

Read the claims, not the /. summary (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about a year ago | (#45629061)

Isn't this exactly what marketing research companies have done before. A quick web search says [caci.co.uk] :

corn is a powerful consumer classification that segments the UK population. By analysing demographic data, social factors, population and consumer behaviour, it provides precise information and an understanding of different types of people. Acorn provides valuable consumer insight helping you target, acquire and develop profitable customer relationships and improve service delivery.

This is just another case of adding "... on a computer" or "... over wifi" to something that's already an established practice to gain a patent.

No, this is another case of not reading the claims. The patent claims go into confidence metrics and applying advertising criteria based on those metrics. Now, maybe there's other prior art out there that teaches that element, but your link is the equivalent of saying "Tesla got a patent on the power train in the Model S? But isn't that really just a Ford Model T adding '... with a battery'?"

Re:Isn't this exactly what marketing research (4, Interesting)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#45629101)

This is just another case of adding "... on a computer" or "... over wifi" to something that's already an established practice to gain a patent.

They are not patenting the concept, they are patenting a specific algorithm.

FFB (1)

AndyKron (937105) | about a year ago | (#45627741)

Doesn't bother me. I said Fuck FaceBook years ago.

Re:FFB (2)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#45627893)

Don't worry, your friends and family will help upload all your personal information to Facebook to sell to advertisers, to make sure you don't miss out on anything.

Turn it all off (3, Insightful)

GWXerog (3151863) | about a year ago | (#45627831)

There is an browser addon called Disconnect that blocks your browser from loading most if not all tracking resources, this includes the social media buttons used by Facebook to track your browsing. I put it onto every browser I come into contact with that supports it. https://disconnect.me/ [disconnect.me]

Re:Turn it all off (1)

atomicxblue (1077017) | about a year ago | (#45629391)

That software is interesting because it was co-developed by a former Doubleclick engineer and privacy attorney. I've never heard of it before, but I'll have to look deeper. Right now, I have rules in my router that won't let my computer connect to any URL that contains the word 'ad' or 'doubleclick'.

Re:Turn it all off (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | about a year ago | (#45629851)

Firefox addon Ghostery does the same including going to the next logical step of self-destructing all cookies that you don't explicitly protect. It also give the ability to white/blacklist. Combined with addon's that take care of the long term cookies that Adobe created with flash and you have the ability to block almost all tracking.

I've yet to see a single addon that gets all the different avenues of tracking. It's not enough to block the tracking widgets because cookies can reveal you, and Adobe flash cookies are even worse, they are long term, generally unmanageable and can be read by almost any site. And those are just the ones I know about, there are probably others.

The only safe way to browse is with noscript, ghostery and a dozen other addons that make browsing a pain because of all the sites that totally break without the ability to track you. In fact in the last 3 months or so there's been a trend to break critical parts of the site deliberately if you disable the tracking widgets.

More accurate (1)

frozentier (1542099) | about a year ago | (#45627881)

I think it's more likely that they can infer what you make BY WHAT CURRENT JOB YOU LIST. Someone listed as working as a lab tech somewhere is obviously going to make more than someone listed as working at McDonald's.

Re:More accurate (2)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#45628117)

A mid-level corporate manager at McDonalds probably makes more money than some lab technician.

By that logic, you could look at the IP they are connecting to Facebook from.... if they have been connecting from Google's IP address space, then you might infer they are an office worker who gets the privilege of surfing the internet at work -- which puts them in a higher bracket than someone who connects from a dial-up only ISP or AOL.

Re:More accurate (1)

McGruber (1417641) | about a year ago | (#45628399)

Someone listed as working as a lab tech somewhere is obviously going to make more than someone listed as working at McDonald's.

Not if the lab tech is a graduate student in the U.S.

Re:More accurate (2)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#45629395)

Unfortunately, even though gradstudent wages are miserably low, the sad truth is that McDonald's near-minimum-wage is even more terrible. And, unlike gradstudents, the majority of people working McDonalds jobs are adults, often raising families, near the top of their career advancement --- they're not about to see double or triple salary after a few more years of burger flipping. US gradstudents have it tough, but the US working poor have it even harder (levels of poverty difficult to understand for anyone living in the civilized world).

I can infer productivity of Facebook users @ work (4, Funny)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about a year ago | (#45627949)

Pretty, pretty low.

How is that an invention? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627963)

Here's an idea: "Inferring Employment Status From Branded Apparel". If we see someone wearing a Facebook T-Shirt, we can infer that they a) work for Facebook, b) know someone who works for Facebook, c) attended a Facebook event, or d) knows someone who falls into one of the previous categories. What a mind-blowing invention! What a truly original and wholly non-obvious contribution to society!

Typo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627969)

It's not inferring, it's *implying* .. In the case of facebook, the more they use, the more they lose.

Racist! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45627975)

There really is a sense of classism up there isn't it? I read the sites mentioned daily, and I make 50k a year. This is like assuming someone's black due to the number of fried chicken ads they clicked.

Re:Racist! (4, Informative)

Jiro (131519) | about a year ago | (#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.

Abstract ideas on the internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45628103)

Reflecting back to the "SCOTUS reviewing software patents" article on slashdot yesterday, it sort of makes me think how this "invention" would go down in real life, without a computer or the internet.....perhaps something like this:

*Joe Shopper enters Costco*
Costco Greeter: Hello! Would you mind telling me where you came from before entering our store and what kind of car you drive?
Joe Shopper: Why?
Costco Greeter: We would like to use that information to take a guess on how much money you make?
Joe Shopper: Why don't you just ask me?
Costco Greeter: Oh... hmm.. ok... how much money do you make?
Joe Shopper: GFY.

*Jack Shopper enters Walmart*
Walmart Greeter: Hello! Would you mind telling me where you came from before entering our store and what kind of car you drive?
Jack Shopper: *flees*
Walmart Greeter: *crawls into fetal position and cries out the remaining 11 hours*

So like... in real life, without computers and the internet, the task would be hard to complete, yeah? Not because of the technical details of the task [you ask, they tell], but more due to the individuals privacy. The first clue to facebook should be that they are having to use a surreptitious method to make an assumption rather than directly asking you what your household income is.

Re:Abstract ideas on the internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45628139)

It's more like if you walk into Costco wearing shabby off-brand clothes and the greeter walks you over to their clothing area and starts holding items up for you to consider.

Al Capone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45628121)

That's how they got Al Capone...
Didn't know you could patent that.

Interesting, but for different reasons (1)

MooseMiester (1412661) | about a year ago | (#45628265)

Facebook's advertising is all about micro targeting based on a user's behavior, open to all with the smarts to read it via the Open Graph API.

Advertising (TV, Radio, Banners, Internet) is sold on an open market bidding system. You bid for impressions (CPI) and clicks (CPC). Coveted demographics - such as 16-20 year old females, or wealthy folks have very high bid rates. So being able to infer people's income makes good business sense.

Facebook has a good model, as you bid for placement based on age, location, brands they fan, web pages they like, number of friends, etc. as opposed to blindly putting advertising out there and hoping the right folks read it. Many local small businesses would be out of business if it wasn't for this. Those are the folks who are creating most of the new jobs. Google, on the other hand, uses your search behavior, and tracking cookies left by banner ads + stuff you look at. If you use free or paid gmail the emails you send and receive come into play. That's why it's free, of course. The other "free" email services do the same thing.

There's a database called PRIZM that's in widespread use that determines relative income based on zip code - PRIZM has been around since the direct mail days. My guess is that Facebook either does not want to pay for this, or because it doesn't have user's zip codes, only cities, it thinks it can do better based on data it has in the social stream.

Being able to predict the precise moment when purchase intent is realized... is the holy grail of digital marketing right now, with billions of dollars being spent on the problem. Every piece of data about your online behavior is being analyzed against what you actually bought (and if you're on a mobile device, where you were at the time). It is only a matter of time before this is perfected - e.g. the moment you realize you are hungry an ad for nearest food joint of your preference will appear in front of you... This trend is as unstoppable as dawn, and if you're smart, you're trying to patent every single idea that might remotely be involved in this.

If you really think you can protect yourself from companies analyzing your behavior, you're dreaming. Being able to deliver the ad to you at the precise moment of purchase intent will save businesses large and small billions and billions of dollars... And the first company to make that work, will be profitable beyond belief.

I want my internet back (1)

netpatriot (3456831) | about a year ago | (#45628305)

Another confirmation that our idea of the internet has devolved in the hands of entrepeneurs.

Re:I want my internet back (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | about a year ago | (#45630113)

No wonder facebook sucks.

Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45629243)

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Seinfeld is Prior Art (1)

PaddyM (45763) | about a year ago | (#45629261)

How about them Knicks?

This is a ridiculous patent and should be invalidated. As others have said, this is correlation. Nothing patentable here at all.

I taught data mining in college. This is a standard example of relating attributes to income. It is not novel.

Patenting Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45629343)

This is one of two things: A multiple regression (or any general linear model for predicting the dollar amount) or a multinomial logistic regression (any generalized linear model for predicting income category). Both of these are just maths (yes, we could do something more complex, with a genereal additive models, or MARS, et cet), but all they did is provide large amounts of training data. Given the same data I or any statistician do the exact same thing.

What the fuck (1)

Saethan (2725367) | about a year ago | (#45629357)

WHAT THE FUCK. I don't normally give useless responses.. but WHAT THE FUCK. PATENT REFORM NOW.

Re:What the fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45629709)

WHAT THE FUCK.

I don't normally give useless responses.. but WHAT THE FUCK. PATENT REFORM NOW.

AGREED like hell.... I will patent breathing as a bio-chemical gas exchange or something. I BET this would go through the US patent system.

Re:What the fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45630085)

Let's patent social prejudice and how to spot a terrorist or a dork or a greedy money grubbing pimp....

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