Facebook is under fire for a whole host of privacy and security issues this week, including the revelation that it hired PR firms and lobbyists to smear its critics following the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, Russian meddling and more. So it was probably not a good time for news to come out that Facebook has filed for a patent that would let it to target whole families with advertising by analyzing their photos.
This creepy feature would analyze elements of a user’s picture, like faces, tags, descriptions and IP addresses, then cross-reference the information to build a profile of a household. Facebook even offered a hypothetical example of a male user who routinely posts pictures with the same two female subjects. In this example, one of the females is a young girl, and the male user has included a caption that reads “my angel.” Using just that info, Facebook would be able to deduce that the pictures included the man’s wife and daughter. And Facebook would then be able to give that information to advertisers.
Of course, this patent would only cover photos that are shared by users, and nothing from their private messages. Also, just because Facebook filed for a patent doesn’t mean this tool will ever become a reality. But it’s still unsettling to think of the company analyzing pictures of our loved ones this closely.