Facebook has applied for a patent for a face-emotion technology that employs the user-facing camera on smartphones or tablets to check on the feelings of subscribers viewing content on the social-media network.
The technology incorporates “passive imaging data,” or visual information captured automatically through the camera, according to an article in CB Insights. This approach takes advantage of the fact that users are constantly looking at their devices’ cameras without thinking about it.
As the information is collected, the system uses an application programming interface to determine the users’ emotional state. With this sentiment information, Facebook could learn which emotions users are feeling as they view certain content. Based on this emotional analysis, Facebook could present more information specifically tailored to users’ feelings at a particular time.
For example, if a user appears to be happy when viewing an image of a beach, Facebook could show more coastal-related content. On the other hand, the social-media network could reduce or eliminate the presentation of content that elicits negative reactions.
This technique could keep users engaged, attracting more eyeballs to Facebook.
The face-emotion technology could gather information even when the user isn’t actively interacting with the camera, a fact that has stirred some privacy concerns. These concerns have been stirred by revelations of other sentiment-analysis technologies employed by Facebook.
A leaked report indicated that the social-media firm is using techniques that can discern when teenage users are feeling negative emotions. The report said that Facebook can tell when people are suffering negative feelings including defeat, stress, anxiety or being overwhelmed, according to a report from CNBC.
Facebook acknowledged it shared this information with an advertiser, raising concerns that companies could capitalize on teens’ insecurities to aim certain kinds of marketing at them.
However, Facebook issued a statement that the information transfer was a mistake and said its policies prohibit advertisers from targeting its users based on their emotional state.
In 2014, Facebook revealed it had adjusted the news feeds for 700,000 users to control how many positive and negative postings they saw. The goal of the project was to influence the emotions of users.
Despite seeking the patent for conducting passive image data analysis using face-emotion technology, it’s not clear if Facebook actually plans to deploy this specific technology.
“We often seek patents for technology we never implement, and patents should not be taken as an indication of future plans,” Facebook said in a statement to Forbes.
Nirel Marofsky is project analyst for the cognitive engine and application ecosystem at Veritone. She acts as a liaison to strategic partners, integrating developers and their capabilities into the Veritone Platform. Learn more about our platform and join the Veritone developer ecosystem today.