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Facebook app monitors users' posts to track and report their emotions


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(NaturalNews) The reach of social media into people's personal lives is becoming unsettlingly invasive, with a recent study outlining how a new Facebook tool is capable of tracking users' emotional states in real time based on their messages and status updates.

Researchers from Spain have developed a program known as SentBuk that reportedly analyzes the online activity of Facebook users, supposedly with their permission, in order to determine how they're feeling -- information that is then used to market products and services directly to them.

As published in the Elsevier journal Computers in Human Behavior, a study on the technology explains that it looks for specific cues in every message to determine whether a person is in a positive, negative or neutral state. From this, computer-generated models determine sentiment polarity for maximized data mining accuracy.

"Information from social networks is becoming a goldmine for marketing and advertising companies," explains a press release about the technology.

"Now, a team of computer languages and systems researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) has also spotted great potential for analysing the emotions transmitted by users in the most popular of these networks: Facebook."

Your Facebook messages aren't private

According to the paper, SentBuk is capable of retrieving users' private messages in addition to publicly available status updates, comments, likes and other activity. This suggests that nothing a user does on Facebook is truly private, and all of it can be exploited for marketing or other purposes.

Similarly, all interactions between Facebook "friends," whether public or private, are also presumably part of this advanced data-collection process. Everything about the Facebook platform, it seems, was designed specifically to accommodate the harvesting and processing of users' private information, which is even further simplified with programs like SentBuk.

"SentBuk is an application external to Facebook which, with the user's permission, analyses the messages he/she publishes and calculates his/her emotional state," claims Alvaro Ortigosa, Director of the UAM's National Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity.

"The tool is based on two algorithms: the first calculates the emotional load of each message and classifies it as positive, negative or neutral. The second deduces emotional state by comparing it with the emotional load of recent messages."

Facebook analysis tools gaining artificial intelligence capabilities

These two algorithms combined, as further explained by Ortigosa in the press release, harness a primitive form of artificial intelligence capable of processing human thought through ordinary language.

The technology is already so advanced, according to Ortigosa, that it can not only categorize the intent of language as expressed digitally but also use it to reproduce human judgment. Its designers liken it to assessing how a person is feeling in real life by looking at his or her facial expressions.

Field tests already conducted have shown a more than 83 percent accuracy rate, which in the context of e-learning -- this is how SentBuk's designers are attempting to justify its existence in the face of privacy concerns -- may be helpful for improving how students receive an education.

In his own words, Ortigosa describes SentBuk as a non-intrusive way for teachers "to have an emotional state thermometer for Facebook users," allowing them to gauge the most appropriate times to administer assignments or tests.

"These messages are analysed in context," he said about how SentBuk can determine the collective emotional state of a classroom full of students, for instance.

For a more private social media experience without the threat of spying and message tracking, check out the following two Facebook alternatives: Seen.is and Diaspora.







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