Facebook is fond of running experiments, even though in the past this hasn’t gone so well. Yet these missteps haven’t stopped them from trying. Over the past several weeks, there has been reports of several new innovative features that they are testing which may soon have a significant impact on your online life and behavior.
To help with the challenge of finding balance between our online selves and offline lives, they are testing a feature that allows you to track how long you spend on FB and set limits.
Another major effort which they recently unveiled at the forward looking Fighting Abuse @Scale Conference involves an ambitious plan to try and fight back against fake news by widely expanding its fact-checking program, both in terms of geography and depth of research.
Just this week, it was revealed that Facebook applied for a patent on technology that listens to “ambient audio” to detect what you’re watching on TV and has the potential to save that against your user profile. Despite Facebook’s protests that they would never use this type of technology, many watchdog groups are understandably worried.
On the less controversial and more user friendly side, they are testing AI to detect closed eyes in photos and magically “open” them. Finally, there is a feature that allows you to set “keyword snoozing” to fight spoilers and ensure you don’t accidentally hear the score of that big game or spoilers for your favorite shows on social media before you are able to watch them yourself.
Clearly, Facebook is trying really hard to predict what we want. The problem is, doing that is notoriously hard for humans, let alone computers. The open question seems to be whether they will get it right and inspire others to do the same, or lead us toward a future no one really wants where privacy is dead, every moment is monetized and “the grid” knows everything there is to know about you.
It is scary to think we are not sure which future we are headed towards. It is even scarier to think that Facebook might not know either, but is testing these features anyway.