A review of hundreds of Facebook’s patent applications reveals that the company has considered tracking almost every aspect of its users’ lives: where you are, who you spend time with, whether you’re in a romantic relationship, which brands and politicians you’re talking about. The company has even attempted to patent a method for predicting when your friends will die.
Facebook has said repeatedly that its patent applications should not be taken as indications of future product plans. “Most of the technology outlined in these patents has not been included in any of our products, and never will be,” Allen Lo, a Facebook vice president and deputy general counsel, and the company’s head of intellectual property, said in an email.
Taken together, Facebook’s patents show a commitment to collecting personal information, despite widespread public criticism of the company’s privacy policies and a promise from its chief executive to “do better.”
“A patent portfolio is a map of how a company thinks about where its technology is going,” said Jason M. Schultz, a law professor at New York University. […]