How Facebook Uses AI to Predict Your Behavior

Facebook has taken over the headlines recently related to its data privacy and advertising policies. Let’s dig in to see how they are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict your actions and sell you on your next purchase.

When you first log into Facebook, artificial intelligence is at work to help you have the most engaging and individualized experience possible (or “unique, personalized experiences,” as Facebook calls them). They have been experimenting with improvements since day one of Facebook’s launch 14 years ago.

To make this possible, Facebook collects billions of data points about every user’s behavior and stores them to enhance the experience and to provide advertisers with important information. A point of clarification on its advertising process, Facebook defines its practices as a “data renter” and not as a “data seller” of your information. And on that advertising distinction it says it is an “aggregated and anonymized [to protect] user privacy” which means it accumulates your information and holds the data in their company to protect from outside agencies.

The AI application Facebook developed is called FBLearner Flow and is used by a quarter of Facebook’s engineering employees. The FBLearner Flow makes more than a million models that are trained on user behavior and it also comes with a predictive program that makes more than 6 million forecasts per second. And, most importantly, this machine learning program is self-improving as more actions are fed into its system.

In what ways is artificial intelligence being used in the normal everyday user’s actions? It customizes:

  • News Feed stories
  • Trending topics
  • Local search results
  • Relevant advertising

Not only does Facebook’s FBLearner Flow have enough data to establish what friend updates you’re most likely to engage with, it has stepped into something far greater after collecting millions of data points of information about the user. Facebook’s advertising AI technology has the ability to identify what you will purchase, will think, and will behave next.

The “predictive future behavior” of FBLearner Flow allows advertisers to pinpoint users on the behavior of choices not yet made. As an example, Facebook is able to sift through over 2 billion users and divulge people that are “at risk” of moving to a competitive brand (from McDonald’s to Wendy’s, for example).

That information can be “rented” to companies such as McDonald’s so that they can rapidly seize the communication space and send targeted ads to maintain brand loyalty. Facebook calls this process “improved marketing efficiency” and works differently than simple old-school advertising that just targets users who follow or don’t follow your brand. This is a revolution in marketing and the data allows companies to be a step ahead of the user’s decision-making with specific messaging and even loyalty prediction.

Even with the shocking headlines and questions concerning data protection, the company’s skill with information outweighs every other data sourcing company out there — from Google to Netflix to Amazon. The mastery Facebook has built to hone their machine learning won’t simply fade away, no matter what comes next in the news. Just like a hospital patient with medical records, it is a matter of what information a user will decide to share and what laws will be put in place to secure the consented information.


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