Facebook has just filed a patent that allows you to secretly switch on your mobile phones and listen to you while you watch the ads. Except that is not really the case. ( Thomas Ulrich | Pixabay )
So, an interesting thing happened: A number of articles from various publications claim that Facebook has a patent that secretly turns on the microphones on users' mobile devices, every time hear a signal from a TV.
The tide of articles seems to have begun when Metro UK took up the story: "Facebook wants to hide secret, inaudible news in TV commercials that can force your phone to record sound."
Unfortunately, The Verge has wind from these articles and exposing their incorrect interpretations of the patent, which were probably the result of their inability to properly read patents.
The Case for Proper Reading of Patents
The Verge claims that all the headlines about Facebook's history are false. Facebook has not filed a patent for the secret switching on of microphones, when a hidden signal begins to play on users' televisions. How did Nilay Patel of The Verge know that? Well, he just read the patent, and it did not even contain the words "phone" or "microphone."
Patel goes on to explain that a patent consists of several parts, but the "claims" is the only area that is really important for interpretation. The Claims section contains the subject matter of the patent, and anyone who skips it or focuses on a section other than claims will ultimately misrepresent the contents of a patent.
Does Facebook plan to spy on people?
The patent in question is available to read online. It's loaded with jargon and highly technical descriptions, but the core of it illustrates a system that gets a user ID and an audio fingerprint, matches some content, tries to determine if that content has been played for a set amount of time, and then cross-references a counter to determine if that content has been played a certain number of times, as Nilay explains.
When you read the patent, you can not assume that Facebook is developing a system that reflects the habits of looking at users. But that too would not be fundamentally different from existing intelligent speakers that can listen to triggers, record audio, and send them to servers for processing. It should be noted that Facebook is rumored to be working on its own smart speaker, which apparently should have been released now, if not for the pushback the company received after the entire Cambridge Analytica fiasco.
It is also worth noting that patents aren It is always significant that a company will enforce its ideas. Often, they are used as preventative legal protection if another company tries to copy or use assets without the required authorization. In addition, Facebook says it does not plan to use the technology described in the patent. It was only filed to "prevent aggression from other companies," according to Facebook Allen Lo.
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