Facebook plays down relevance of location prediction patent

Facebook has played down the importance of a patent application linked to technology that could predict a user’s future location.

The patent, filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, uses previously logged location data from a user as well as other people to make predictions on where they are likely to go next.

However, the social network said the application should be not seen as confirmation of any plans to implement any such system.

“We often seek patents for technology we never implement, and patent applications – such as this one – should not be taken as an indication of future plans,” a Facebook spokesman said.

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The patent describes using machine learning along with “previously logged location data associated with a number of users who were at the current location” to make its assessments.

Facebook, and the wider technology industry has been the subject of several scandals linked to data privacy in the last year, with governments and regulators publicly criticising big tech firms over their conduct and calling for more transparency in their actions.

A debate is ongoing about whether or not internet giants should be subject to some form of national or international regulation.

Last week, a former head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, warned the platform could be a threat to democracy unless properly controlled and regulated, suggesting many large tech firms were too big to reform themselves.

He said Facebook was not a “fluffy charity” providing free services to users, but rather social media firms were trying to “squeeze every drop of profit” out of personal data.

- Press Association

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