Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Facebook Knows Where You're Going Next

While Facebook might know quite a bit about you and the company you keep (at least digitally), the social giant has filed for a patent that predicts where its users are going, both literally and physically.

The program, dubbed "Offline Trajectories," promises to help Facebook predict where a user will go after logging off based on historical actions by the user, their friends, and complete strangers. And while this level of predictive technology scores rather high on the Big-Brother/creepiness scale, Facebook asserts that the sole purpose of it is to help serve Facebook users with more relevant localized advertising.

How Does This Work?

In short, the Offline Trajectory program works by looking at a user's current locations, then comparing it against other locations that user has been to within a certain geographical range, then looks at the user's friends' historical locations in that area, as well as others' data (strangers who fall into the same demographic as the user), to predict the most likely locations the user might be going to. Then, the program preloads the user's feed for offline viewing, including localized advertising for the places the program believes the user might be heading to.

For example, if a Facebook user goes to a shopping plaza, Facebook's program is likely to load up their feed with advertising for the other shops in the same plaza, assuming that other users usually make more than one stop at the plaza (and the other businesses there advertise with Facebook).

Has Facebook Gone Too Far?

For many Facebook users, the usual response of "meh" is likely to be their response to this as well. After all, just about everyone recognizes (now, at least) that Facebook exists to make money off their users via advertising. However, it certainly provides a valuable benefit to many of its users by allowing everyone to connect so easily and share pictures, videos, personal news, big media stories, and so much more.

Some Facebook users may even be happy to be served better, more localized advertising. But, as you might suspect, the most vocal group of Facebook users are likely to be up in arms about the software due to the obvious privacy concerns. Fortunately for those users, turning off location services can often stop privacy invasions like these, as can the simple solution of just deleting Facebook.

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