If you’re feeling paranoid, you’re not alone. You’ve probably noticed stuff you’ve discussed out loud popping up as sponsored ads on social media. That’s not a coincidence. This isn’t to say that Facebook and Google are listening to you, necessarily—though they definitely have that ability—but big tech is most certainly spying on you in other ways.
Ride-booking juggernaut Uber, for example, just filed a patent application that would use artificial intelligence to “predict a user state.” What this really means is that Uber wants to know if you’re trashed when booking a ride. This comes from CNN, which explains that the app would rely on an algorithm that weighs numerous factors, “including typos, how precisely a user clicks on links and buttons, walking speed, and how long it takes to request a ride.” Time and location would also be considered, as well as, one assumes, the amount of texts being sent to your ex.
The patent also says that the service Uber provides to the user could change, as a result. Drivers may be warned of their passenger’s state. And riders in an especially unusual state may only be matched with drivers with relevant experience or training, the patent application says.
Passengers also might not be given the option to partake in a shared ride, based on their state.
The application comes via current or former members of Uber’s Trust & Safety team, and there’s definitely some pros to be found in the realm of this kind of system. It would be helpful, after all, for Uber drivers to know whether their passenger is intoxicated; no one wants to be surprised by the stranger they just let in their car. But, for a company that has seen more than 100 drivers accused of sexual assault or abuse, the system could also help identify more vulnerable targets.
Really, though, the patent—which may or may not ever come to fruition—just serves as further evidence of tech companies using the technology to which we’ve become so hopelessly addicted to, quite literally, watch our every movement.
You can almost hear Big Brother creepily laughing.