Facebook could use its “eye-tracking” patent to know who you are and how you feel…but claims it won’t


The company has provided written responses to questions posed by Congress in April

In a series of written responses to questions posed by Congress, Facebook has denied that it’s working on technology that can identify people using eye-tracking cameras.

The document in question responds to questions first presented at an April hearing at which CEO Mark Zuckberg was grilled on the company’s data misuse in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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In one question, Senators asked how Facebook plans to use patents it recently filed for “Dynamic eye tracking calibration” and “Techniques for emotion detection and content delivery”.

The response, first spotted by CNBC, reveals that although Facebook is not working on technology that uses cameras to identify users “right now”, it is always exploring new technology that “can improve our services”.

Such technology could “potentially reduce consumer friction and add security” for people using its Oculus VR headsets, it explains, but the company would only introduce it in a way that respects privacy.

“If we implement this technology in the future, we will absolutely do so with people’s privacy in mind, just as we do with movement information (which we anonymise in our systems),” the response says.

“As we continue to develop new virtual reality products and services, we’re committed to
being transparent and open about the information that we collect and how we use it, as well as any ways that changes over time.”

These comments will do little to allay the fears of privacy advocates who believe Facebook has already overstepped the mark on multiple occasions in terms of data misuse. In particular, the company’s response does little to address the idea of “emotion detection and content delivery”, which is the more sinister sounding of the two patents considering the social network has a history of experimenting with its users feelings.

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