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Data analysis and PC or smartphone location data can be used to display all sorts of ads to users, depending on their whereabouts. However, processing data takes time: while the system is busy determining what shop or commodity you are passing by, the data quickly becomes outdated. And since you also need some time to look through the ad, the chances of you taking the bait and turning around are next to zero. And here is where “big data” comes to the rescue of advertisers (and helps others too).
Facebook has filed a patent, patent called "Offline Trajectories", which describes the technology used to predict user location.
According to the patent application, Facebook is going to use machine learning to analyse the meta data associated with other users who have already visited a location.
As a rule, people move along predictable routes. Furthermore, the routes may remain unchanged for many weeks or even months, making people's movements easy to predict.
Facebook has a corresponding patent application, "Predicting Locations and Movements of Users Based on Historical Locations for Users of an Online System", which details how location data from multiple users will be used to determine other people's whereabouts and predict their transition points. The system will generate location chains that will be used to further improve targeted advertising.
Another similar patent application, "Location Prediction Using Wireless Signals on Online Social Networks", expounds on how Facebook will analyse the strength of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular, and NFC signals to better triangulate a device’s position.
Logged data about the location of other Facebook users will make targeted ads even more accurate. Taking a girl out on a date? Be prepared to see ads showcasing goods that may help you impress her. Walking past a travel agency? They already know how much you spend and where you like to go, and an offer tailored to meet your specific needs already awaits you. Busy drawing up a contract? Your would-be partners can learn where the negotiations have taken place and thus determine who the other parties in the agreement are.
And that's not science fiction. Anyone who has access to big data can do that. Haven’t we probably all watched films where a certain agency stages all sorts of situations to manipulate the protagonist? You'd like to meet a beautiful girl? Not a problem. You will "accidentally" run into her on the street and give her flowers. Looking for an opportunity to contact a certain individual? You’ll end up at the same café, sitting at the next table.
You probably think we're talking about the future?
That’s not just one patent application: it’s one of the concurrent clusters that operate together.
The technology already works.
Why are we telling you all this? Because we want to give you a couple of tips on how to make sure that no one abuses your data.
Remove the applications you do not use from your smart phone. The fewer apps your smart phone runs, the less you’ll be tracked
The New York Times published research results on the location data advertisers are gathering via mobile apps. The study revealed that over 75 companies are getting anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users have enabled location services to get local news and weather or other information.
Adjust the privacy settings on your device.
- If you use Android, go to Settings → Google → Opt out of ad personalisation, or visit the Ad settings page and opt out there. Note, though, that researchers recently discovered that Google can track the location of any person who uses certain Google apps under Android or iOS, even if the feature is turned off.
- Under iOS, go to Settings → Privacy → Advertising, and toggle on the option Limit Ad Tracking. Here you can also clear your data from your advertising ID.
- Another way to shut down location-based ads is to go to Settings → Privacy → Location services. Scroll down to System Services, and turn off Location-Based Ads.