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New Snapchat patent scores emotions through selfies

When you post a selfie on Snapchat in the future, you could be giving up more than just what you look like. According to an August patent granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and first identified by Business Insider, you could one day be giving up what you feel.

Snap Inc patent monitors how people are feeling through social media

How good of a time are you having at the concert? Snap Inc wants to find out. Its patent seeks to “determine the mood for a crowd” through the selfies being posted and the messages being shared within Snapchat. The mood detector would “analyze the various faces in the images” so that it can “determine an aggregate mood for the group of people.” Your half-hearted smile in a group selfie would be graded accordingly. In some cases, the patent states that this technology could better than people at determining how happy you are in a photo. “Technological advances in facial recognition allow an image processing system to determine an emotion of a user based on an image of the user’s face. In some scenarios, an image processing system may be more sensitive than a human,” the patent states.

In one of the illustrated figures, a woman is posting a selfie with other women in the woods and their smiles are graded “Happy 7,” “Happy 4,” Happy 3,” “Happy 1.” Through location data and other signals from people at the event, the patent technology said it could determine the mood of a public event. In one illustrated figure, there are people listening to a man on a podium give a speech. From the phones they are holding in their hands, we see their emotion scores to hearing the speaker range from “Happy 7” to “Sad 2.”

What’s the point of this emotion surveillance? Snapchat posts can be made to disappear, but the data within them could be made to live on for an event promoter to analyze. One commercial use for the patent could be to charge clients money for access to this mood detector: “third party entity can be charged per location of use of the mood detection system and/or for exclusive or partially exclusive, use of the aggregate mood level,” the patent states.

A patent does not mean it will lead to commercial use, but Snap’s focus on facial recognition analysis does offer insight into what our selfies can unexpectedly reveal to the social media companies we post them on. It’s one more reminder of the personal data we give up about ourselves when we post our bodies and faces on social media.

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