Recently Facebook was granted a patent in the US for a system which detects items like alcoholic drinks and snacks from users’ photos. Facebook plans to turn its users into advertisement stars through this automatic scanning system. Facebook would take those pictures and send them to the respective brands and those brands will use these pictures to post for other Facebook users (if the said brands choose to do this).
The way this system works can be explained better with an example:
Let us say that you posted the above picture on Facebook. It has Coca-cola, Jack Daniels and Grey Goose Vodka as part of the background. Facebook will automatically detect these products from the photograph and the picture will be qualified to be used as an advertisement for the product. It will then be sent to the respective companies and they will be able to use it as an advertisement for other Facebook users.
The patent suggests that the advert will be shown only to friends if the correct privacy settings are set, however, the wording seems to be vague, thus it cannot be established whether users will have a choice to completely opt out. The patent states that using original, user-generated promotional content is superior to the traditional methods, as the Facebook believes that seeing regular people, not paid-off celebrities, enjoying the products will generate more clicks and in general, be a more effective marketing strategy.
Despite its effectiveness, this approach might not be accepted by the majority, as there are other companies utilizing this strategy, yet still requesting for prior consent from their users. But when it comes to Facebook, they are planning to automatically scan their private photos and use it regardless of users' preferences (or so it seems). The patent also included that it could create a “heat map” showing where the Facebook users have taken such photos the most (kind of like the map in Snapchat).
This tech seems very sketchy and not very pleasing for the majority of its users, thus sounding exactly like something Facebook would do. It does not mean, however, that Facebook will implement the feature. Many companies file patents for ideas which they will not follow through with in order to protect abandoned projects or to stop competitors from utilizing their original ideas.
People tend to respect their privacy, which is completely neglected by this technology, making it likely to be very unpopular amongst Facebook users. Despite this, it is highly probable that Facebook will implement such a system as it is not well known for its outstanding morals. We can only wait and see how Facebook chooses to proceed with this patent.