Have you ever seen Facebook ads on things that you never searched for on your phone, but DID talk about?  Facebook says they don't eavesdrop on you, but many folks don't believe them. In fact, Mozilla (the Firefox folks) is soliciting stories about that for a video art piece.

So funny enough, a patent Facebook has applied for kind of addresses that...

Thanks to an interesting NY Times article about Facebook patents, you can read about those patent apps and even get the numbers - check out the NYT article here. Here's some of what I found especially creepy:

  • The song Every Step You Take by the band Police is considered by some to be really creepyPredicting when you are likely to die - This Facebook patent application is all about how they'll predict when your major life events are likely to occur - events such as a birth, graduation and yes, death. Creepy.
  • Identifying your camera without metadata tags - You may have heard of this one. This patent talks about using faulty pixels and lens scratches to identify individual cameras. Do you strip out identifying metadata from your pictures? This bypasses your privacy intents. Creepy and rude.
  • Using your phone's mic to "monitor your environment" - The patent application talks about using your phone's mic to identify TV shows and whether ads are being muted. What else will they hear while they are waiting for you to watch TV? Super 1984 creepy.
  • Judging your personality - Maybe Cambridge Analytica isn't really an outlier after all. This patent application proposes a way to judge your personality traits like extroversion, openness or emotional stability by using your posts and messages. This finding will then be used for targeted ads and news stories. Ministry of Truth Creepy (1984 again!).
  • Establishing routine - This patent application proposes a form of weekly routine tracking and describes a way of using your phone's nightly location to determine where you live. Stalker creepy
  • Using location to track down your social ife and your sleeping habits - This patent application proposes a comparison of your phone's location with the locations of your friends' phones to determine who you socialize with the most. Interestingly, it will also monitor when your phone is stationary to track how many hours you sleep (and maybe who with?) Thought Police Creepy - wow, they are really channeling 1984!.

Sigh.  Of course, Facebook says applying for a patent doesn't mean they'll actually do it.  Whatever.  They went to the trouble of thinking it up and filing a patent. That's enough to completely creep me out.  What to do?

Get Facebook off your phone

The app is convient, but it is NOT free.  You're paying for it with the currency of personal information.  Are you being ripped off? Personal information is today's top raw material.  When you give it away, it's like handing over Manhattan Island for a string of beads. Or diamonds for chump change.  Don't do it.

Access Facebook via the Mozilla browser

Access Facebook using Mozilla with their Facebook Container add-on installed. You can read more about how this add-on works at the Mozilla blog.

Go through the EFF's Facebook Privacy Settings checklist.

You can find the checklist here.  One of the things they mention is that if you follow all of their setting suggestions, you can't log into other apps using your Facebook login.  This means you will have to set up your connection with those apps & websites the old fashioned way, with an email and a password.  It's a pain, but do it. 

This can be a great opportunity to finally move to a good password keeper system.  Check out PC Magazine's password manager recommendations.

Here's some music to listen to while you pull the Facebook tendrils out of your privacy. (back to top of article)