Updated Feb 2, 2018

Facebook patent tries to guess users' socioeconomic status

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A new patent from Facebook describes a system that would use data points it collects on the user — like education, travel history, the number of devices owned, and homeownership — to predict their socioeconomic status. The patent was spotted by CBInsights.

Why it matters: The social network, which is already coming under fire for knowing too much about its users, could use such a system to better target ads and content to specific audiences.

Despite that scrutiny, getting more granular information about users is key to helping advertisers (its customers) reach specific people at specific times. Another recent Facebook patent would allow the company to detect and respond to users' emotions, CBInsights found.

How it works: The patent describes a system that uses a decision tree to classify users. Certain data points would be assigned probability scores to predict their class.

  • For example, a user between 30 and 40 years old that owns a home would be assigned 10 points if they live in San Jose, 20 points for Menlo Park and 30 points for Palo Alto, presumably ranking the Bay Area cities based on typical housing prices.

Reality check: Companies file patents all the time without ever following through on developing the technology. Facebook may never put such a system into use, even though it's clear the company has interest in it.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Stocks fall 4% as sell-off worsens

A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Stocks fell more than 4% on Thursday, extending the market’s worst week since the financial crisis in 2008 following a spike in coronavirus cases around the world.

The big picture: All three indices closed in correction territory on Thursday, down over 10% from their recent record-highs amid a global market rout.

Coronavirus updates: California monitors 8,400 potential cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

33 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 8,400 people who have recently returned from "points of concern," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health

Watchdog opens probe into VA secretary over handling of sexual assault claim

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Fox Business Network’s "The Evening Edit" on Jan. 7. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

The Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael Missal said Thursday he had opened an investigation into VA Secretary Robert Wilkie after lawmakers demanded an inquiry into his handling of a sexual misconduct report, the Washington Post reports.

Context: Wilkie allegedly "worked to discredit" the credibility of Democratic aide and veteran Andrea Goldstein after she reported last fall "that a man groped and propositioned her in the main lobby of the agency's D.C. Medical Center," a senior VA official told the Post.