There was a time when the creepiest thing about Facebook was poking people. Ah, that was a simpler time.
Allow Facebook to predict somewhere you are going before you even get there? Probably not what you were expecting when you hit "Create Account" however many years ago.
That's exactly the gist of Facebook's new patent. On December 6, Facebook filed for a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office titled "Offline Trajectories."
Facebook has gobs and gobs of data on its users. It has so much data about us, it could begin using that data to predict what we're going to do next.
The all-knowing Facebook feature
Before you even get to a physical destination, Facebook has enough data to know where you're going. You don't even need to be online.
The new feature would use your previous locations -- plus previously logged locations of other Facebook users, even people who aren't your Facebook friends -- to make predictions about where you're likely to go. Then, presumably, it'd use this information to serve you ads.
"The computer model is generated using machine learning and metadata associated with users who were at the respective candidate geographic location," the patent abstract reads. Translation: This sounds really creepy.
Facebook filed for a few related patents. Piecing these various technologies together would allow Facebook to:
Use previously logged locations to create a profile about you (e.g., favorite restaurants, stores, etc.)
Predict if you were headed somewhere that might have spotty W-Fi.
Preload News Feed content that's likely to match where you're going.
BuzzFeed tech reporter Nicole Nguyen outlines the proposed patent in detail. If you find this type of location data collection on Facebook's part concerning, she recommends that you:
Turn off location sharing on the Facebook app. (Here's how.)
Don't check into locations on Facebook.
Delete the app entirely and log in to the mobile site.
Facebook is already on the offense
Almost as soon as the news about the filing of the Offline Trajectories patent became public, Facebook began doing damage control.
"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 spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
On the subject of its users' data, Facebook hasn't had a great year. There was the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Then the security breach that left 50 million accounts exposed. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, has come under fire after a report revealed how the company poorly dealt with these scandals. Facebook fell several notches on Glassdoor's annual year-end list of companies to work for (though it's still number seven.)
Is this enough to make you leave Facebook? Bonus: Deleting the Facebook app can double your battery life.