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Artificial intelligence

Facebook is using AI to predict users’ future behavior and selling that data to advertisers

April 13, 2018

In confidential documents seen by the Intercept, Facebook touts its ability to “improve” marketing outcomes with what it calls “loyalty prediction.”

Newspeak: The AI software that powers this capability, called “FBLearner Flow,” was first announced in 2016, though it was presented as a technology to make user experience better, not as a marketing tool.

How it works: The data it uses is anonymized, but includes users’ “location, device information, Wi-Fi network details, video usage, affinities, and details of friendships, including how similar a user is to their friends.”

Facebook's defense: A Facebook spokesperson had this to say about the story: "Facebook, just like many other ad platforms, uses machine learning to show the right ad to the right person. We don't claim to know what people think or feel, nor do we share an individual's personal information with advertisers."

Happy Friday the 13th: This is just the latest in a seemingly unending parade of ethical dilemmas in Facebook’s 14 years of existence. Of course, this one follows on the heels of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s two days of testimony on Capitol Hill in connection with a separate scandal. Another data privacy drama will certainly fuel calls to regulate the social-media giant.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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