Facebook may be developing a system to automatically detect how rich or poor you are: Patent reveals how the site could track your socioeconomic status

already knows a lot about us, but it could soon be able to guess your income, if a newly patented technology ever comes to fruition.

The social media giant wants to build a system that collects users’ personal data, such as education, homeownership and internet usage, in order to predict their socioeconomic status.

The patent was filed on July 27, 2016, but was just made public on Thursday.

The filing suggests an algorithm that may help improve Facebook’s targeting capabilities, so that it can serve up more relevant advertisements to users.

A decision tree starts by asking what the user’s age is and, from there, asks a question that would be seemingly relevant to that user’s age group.

In the filing, 20 to 30-year-olds are asked how many internet devices they own, while 30 to 40-year-olds are asked whether or not they own a house.

Other information that’s considered is a person’s travel history, what kinds of devices the user owns, how many internet connected devices they own and what their highest level of education is.

At the bottom of the decision tree, a question asks ‘What is the probability that the user is in the middle class?’

The patent notes that, generally, a user’s socioeconomic group is tied to a user’s income

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But unsurprisingly, Facebook acknowledges that users might not be comfortable offering up how much they make per year.

‘Online systems often do not have information about the income of users, for example, because the users are typically not inclined to share income information, which may be sensitive information, on online systems,’ the patent states.

So instead, Facebook is side-stepping questions about income and using other personal data to make conclusions on its own.

It not only uses data supplied by users on the platform, but can also refer to ‘actions performed by the user on [Facebook].’

‘By predicting the socioeconomic groups of users, [Facebook] is able to help the third party present sponsored content to the target users,’ according to the patent.

‘Third parties are able to effectively promote their products or services, and the online system can provide a more engaging user experience to users,’ the filing notes.

Facebook would use the decision tree to group users into three classes — working class, middle class or upper class.

It’s unclear if the patent will ever actually be used for user targeting, however.

‘We often seek patents for technology we never implement, and patents should not be taken as an indication of future plans,’ a Facebook spokesperson told The Hill.

Facebook has already been criticized for knowing too much about its users, with many arguing that it doesn’t respect user privacy.

The firm has filed other patents related to user tracking, including one that described a system meant to detect and respond to users’ emotions, according to CBInsights.

One patent described a technology that would capture images of the user through smartphone or laptop cameras, even when the user isn’t actively using the camera.

It would use that data to monitor how users emotionally react to certain kinds of content.

However, such technology could prove to be technically difficult or, worse, an ‘ethical minefield,’ CBInsights noted.

Alexa can now control your HP printer

HP supports Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant skills.

HP has been working on bringing voice control to its printers, introducing Cortana and Google Assistant skills last year that let users tell their virtual assistants to print a variety of different documents for them. Now, as of this week, Alexa-enabled devices can also connect to HP home printers.

Alexa can follow through on a number of different commands. Users can ask her to print games like sudoku puzzles or bingo cards, their to-do or shopping lists, coloring pages and even graph paper, blank calendars or notebook paper. You can see instructions on how to set up your printer to connect with Alexa here.

The Cortana and Google Assistant skills allow for similar commands, though each assistant has capabilities that the others don’t. For example, you can use the Google Assistant to print your Google Calendar or Alexa to print your Amazon shopping list. The Google Assistant HP skill launched last May while the Cortanta skill became available in October.

Anneliese Olson, HP’s head of home printing, says that connecting printers with voice assistants is convenient and useful though in the future, HP printers will likely be responsive to voice commands on their own. “Integrating voice into the home printer is an undeniably useful application of the technology,” Olson said in a statement. “For busy families, the virtual assistant ecosystem makes a lot of sense and connecting a printer to it is a natural extension within the smart home.”

 

Tesla to start selling its ‘invisible’ solar roof tiles and Powerwall batteries at 800 Home Depot locations in the U.S.

Elon Musk’s futuristic solar roof tiles and at-home energy storage units are about to become mainstream.

Or, at least, that’s what Tesla is hoping, by setting up shop in 800 Home Depot stores across the U.S.

The Tesla-branded kiosks will sell the firm’s solar roof tiles and Powerwall batteries at select Home Depot locations beginning sometime in the first half of this year.

The company is also in discussions with home improvement store Lowe’s about selling the products there, according to Bloomberg, citing sources familiar with the situation.

Home Depot used to have a partnership with Solar City, the alternative energy company acquired by Tesla in 2016 that has since been phased out.

Now, Tesla will have displays that are 12 feet tall and 7 feet wide, promoting the products and, in some cases, demonstrating how they work.

It’s unclear whether Tesla will eventually add kiosks to all of Home Depot’s 2,200 stores.

Home Depot locations in Southern California already have the kiosks, while Las Vegas and Orlando stores are expected to open booths next week, according to USA Today.

The move is likely part of Tesla’s wider effort to attract mainstream consumers.

Tesla’s solar power system costs between $10,000 and $25,000, with batteries costing around $7,000.

The firm already showcases its solar panels at its 110 U.S. stores, USA Today noted.

Tesla started taking $1,000 deposits for the roof tiles in May 2017.

However, it’s taken a while for the solar roof tiles to get off the ground, having only been installed on Tesla employees homes so far.

Musk recently introduced the Powerwall 2, a home battery unit that stores 14 kWh with the aid of solar roof panels developed in conjunction with SolarCity. 

Musk said that the Powerwall 2 has enough power to charge lights, sockets and refrigerator for a standard 4 bedroom home for an entire day.

The Powerwall 2 is an improvement upon the original Powerwall, which has only about half of the storage capacity as the new generation of products.

Scientists discover planets in galaxies beyond the Milky Way for the first time in microlensing breakthrough

Astrophysicists have discovered a population of planets outside of the Milky Way for the first time.

The incredible breakthrough was made possible using a technique known as microlensing, which allowed researchers to spot objects in extragalactic galaxies that are too far to be observed directly.

The findings suggest there may be roughly 2000 planets ranging from moon to Jupiter mass per main-sequence star.

Astrophysicists at the University of Oklahoma used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to find the new population of planets.

Before this, they say no evidence of planets in other galaxies had ever been detected.

The researchers relied on a technique called microlensing, which uses the distortions of light from a background source much like a magnifying glass to see distant objects.

‘We are very excited about this discovery,’ said Xinyu Dai, professor in the Homer L Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy.

‘This is the first time anyone has discovered planets outside our galaxy.

‘These small planets are the best candidate for the signature we observed in this study using the microlensing technique.

‘We analyzed the high frequency of the signature by modelling the data to determine the mass.’

Until now, microlensing has only been used to detect planets in the Milky Way, according to the researchers.

With quasar microlensing, they say it’s possible to see extragalactic planets inside the lens galaxy based on the properties of emission near the event horizon of the supermassive black hole of the background quasar.

And, this can be done with current technology.

‘This is an example of how powerful the techniques of analysis of extragalactic microlensing can be,’ said postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Guerras.

‘This galaxy is located 3.8 billion light years away, and there is not the slightlest chance of observing these planets directly, not even with the best telescope one can imagine in a science fiction scenario.

‘However, we are able to study them, unveil their presence and even have an idea of their masses. This is very cool science.’