Facebook has come under fresh criticism over people’s privacy, after a BBC report looks into claims that the social network considered profiling user personalities in order to better target adverts.
The BBC uncovered evidence of a 2012 patent filed by the platform in which it described how factors such as emotional stability could be construed simply by referencing individual messages and status updates.
Such traits could then be stored in a user’s own profile to direct targeted news, ads and recommendations.
This patent has been updated twice, most recently in 2016, but Facebook insists that it has never used such personality tests in any of its products.
According to the BBC discussions took place between Facebook staff and academics at the University of Cambridge, epicenter of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, over the practicalities of such measures
The patent says personality characteristics could then be stored in a user’s profile and used to tailor news stories and advertisements for them.
The BBC has seen emails from Eckles and other Facebook staff to psychologists from Cambridge University which discuss analyzing data to deduce personality traits.
Eckles told the BBC that his research, which involved asking Facebook users to complete personality question surveys were clearly noted as by Facebook.
Facebook’s ad tools currently let advertisers target ads by people’s socioeconomic status, including income, net worth and zip code
Facebook denies conducting personality tests to better target ads