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Facebook Inc. is applying to patent software that it could use to create profiles of users' households by making educated guesses about how many people live in the household, what their relationships to each other are, what interests they share and what electronic devices they use.
The system would draw on the wealth of information Facebook already has about its users—including their photos, comments, messaging history and web browsing activities—and could be used to help target ads, according to the patent application.
Knowledge - User - Household - Features - Items
"Without such knowledge of a user's household features, most of content items that are sent to the user are poorly tailored to the user and are likely ignored," says the patent application, which was filed last year and made public Thursday.
The software would analyze images posted to Instagram or Facebook. (Even users who never upload photos still can be tagged in other users' photos.) To help determine whether people live in the same home, the patent application says, the software could look at how often people are tagged in pictures together and at the photos' captions. The software would not be limited to using photos that include everyone in the household; rather, the patent application shows, it would take into account pictures of individuals and pairs.
Application - Facebook - Posts - Status - Updates
The application indicates Facebook could also incorporate "past posts, status updates, friendships, messaging history, past tagging history" and web browsing history to put together a profile of a household or family. Those profiles, in turn, could be made available to third parties that want to target "content" to users, it says.
Facebook declined to comment Friday on the details of the patent application but said that applying for the patent does not necessarily mean it will build or use the software.
Patents - Technology - Patents
"We've often sought patents for technology we never implement, and patents should not be taken as...
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