Facebook plans to scan people’s photos into their own ads

Apr 11, 2019 | Ads, Facebook marketing, Regulation, Social media

Facebook has filed a patent for a new system that passes user’s personal photos to advertisers, making users the stars of online ads.

The patent, first reported by the Daily Telegraph, can detect photos people have uploaded that feature items such as alcoholic drinks and snacks.

The company would then pass those images to the brands, which would turn them into adverts for other Facebook users to see.

The patent on the concept, called ‘Computer-vision content detection for sponsored stories’ was granted in the U.S. this week, and if deployed, would act as a useful tool for brands seeking new ways to engage Facebook users.

One hypothetical application outlined by the company in its patent involves its theoretical tool tagging a user who appears on Facebook drinking Grey Goose branded vodka.

Once tagged, the image can then be sent to the brand and parlayed into what the description calls a ‘sponsored story.’

“Sponsored or promoted stories generated from actual stories in users’ newsfeeds are more likely to be viewed by users,” reads the patent.

Facebook seems to suggest that for now only users with access to the users profile, dependent on their privacy settings, would be able to look at the sponsored story.

However, in a more detailed section of the patent, it also alludes to a bidding process by which users would be able get paid for sponsoring a certain product.

The payment would depend on who the user is and how many times a post is viewed, clicked, or presented to a particular demographic, says the patent.

While the technology behind the patent does not currently exist, the patent creates a clear framework for if, or when, Facebook may want to move forward with this type of targeted advertising.

Is this the right way for brands to attract customers? Raj De Datta, CEO at Bloomreach offers his view: “Only time will tell if this idea takes off, but brands should consider how they want their customers and prospects to feel when they encounter their services or products online. Is an annoying or creepy ad really the right investment? When they should instead be focusing on the experience they offer users, too many companies are using data and applying it to what people hate most when they’re online – intrusive advertising. Facebook and similar ad-driven platforms claim advertising pays for much of the content they produce and without it they would be forced to charge users. But would that really be a bad thing?

“It’s a fallacy to believe users won’t pay for digital experiences they value. It’s that they won’t pay for experiences they don’t! If users are refusing to pay for using your products, and revenue needs to be generated through other means, it’s not that consumers are being tight with their wallets but that they deem the experience you’re providing as not worth paying for.

“All organisations must urgently reassess what kind of experience and impression they want to make online. Whilst most people are happy for their data to be used if it enhances their daily experience, they’re not so willing to hand it over to firms with the intention of making money from unwarranted advertising. People don’t go online because they want to be advertised to, so stop doing the things they hate. Start doing what they love. Invest in the experience and focus on making that amazing!”

View the patent here