News Column

Patent Application Titled "Evaluation of Remote User Attributes in a Social Networking Environment" Published Online

February 13, 2014

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Computer Weekly News -- According to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews journalists, a patent application by the inventor Shuster, Gary Stephen (Fresno, CA), filed on July 11, 2013, was made available online on January 30, 2014.

No assignee for this patent application has been made.

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "This application relates to evaluation of remote user attributes in a social networking environment.

"Socializing on the Internet is a common activity in today's wired society. Many people including both children and adults participate in some form of online social networking. Social networking may take the form of massively multiplayer online game, social websites such as LinkedIn.RTM., Facebook.RTM., and MySpace.RTM., or any public site where there are interactions among users. Such sites may include sites relating to dating, blogging, and video sharing.

"Regardless of the form of social networking, most sites or systems allow users to sign up as members. The identities of the members are often verified using credit cards or other methods involving third-party authenticators using personal confidential information provided by respective users. With or without some form of third-party verification, a user's personal characteristics may not be verified, therefore enabling some users to falsely portray their own personal characteristics, for example, age, gender, geographic location, occupation, education, or group membership. Additionally, most social networking sites that cater to children lack any form of requirement for identification. Thus, an adult may falsely portray himself as a minor on such websites. This example exemplifies the inherent danger of online networking, especially for children. In other circumstances, false portrayals may be more annoying than dangerous, but nonetheless tend to undermine and devalue the worth of online social networks. This is especially true of dating or other networks in which online activity may serve as a prelude to an in-person relationship. At the same, use of third-party authentication with personal confidential information, besides not enabling verification of all personal attributes, may not be economically practicable, because many users are justifiably reluctant to submit personal confidential information to administrators of social networking sites.

"As social networking web sites, virtual worlds, dating web sites, and other network based applications increasingly serve as a proxy for face to face human interaction, the importance of evaluating the accuracy of personal attributes ascribed to remote users has dramatically increased. As unthinkable as it is for a parent to imagine that a 50 year old man might be posing as a 14 year old girl in order to interact with children, such is the reality of social networking. At the same time, there is a demand for social networking sites that allow members to join without providing verified or verifiable personal information, because members desire to minimize risks of identity theft that may result from freely providing too much personal information, or because verification costs raise unacceptable barriers to entry. Existing technology fails to provide verification or a risk profile that to enable persons accessing a social network to determine the likelihood that people they are interacting with actually have claimed personal attributes, such as, for example, the claimed age, hair color, eye color, height, weight, gender, profession and geographical location."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent application, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent application: "According to various embodiments of the invention, systems and methods for verifying user personal characteristics are provided. The method includes: receiving from a first user on a social network personal information about the first user; requesting veracity feedback of one or more items of personal information of the first user from a plurality of users on the social network; assigning a confidence score (also called a veracity score) to each item of personal information based on respective veracity feedback provided by one or more of the plurality of users; and publishing, on the social network, the confidence score of the first user's personal information to one or more users of the social network. The method may be performed by a computer in communication with a plurality of clients and running application software to perform the recited actions.

"The method may further include one or more of the following: determining an physical-IP location of the first user based on the first user's IP address; comparing the physical-IP location with a location information provided by the first user; and determining a confidence score for the location information of the first user based on the comparison. The confidence score can be based on multiples comparisons of a plurality physical-IP location determined at different times. In this way, the user's main location can be determined and used as a comparison to what is being purported as the user's actual location.

"In one embodiment, the method may include the procedure of assigning the confidence score using veracity feedback from different users. Thus, a confidence score of a single piece of information may depend on various users' inputs. If a substantial number of users provide the same answer or ranking to particular personal information, then the confidence score for such personal information may be increased. In another embodiment, the method may include: verifying a first item of personal information such as sex and age of the first user via an interactive voice chat or video session; and assigning a confidence score for the personal information of the first user based on the interactive session. For example, the method may verify age information of the first user via an interactive video session. Subsequently, the method may adjust the confidence score of the age information of the first user based on veracity feedback from an evaluating user after the interactive video session. Additionally, a reliability score, based feedback after the interactive video session, for each of the plurality of users that provided veracity feedback on the personal information can also be assigned. For example, if user 'A' verified that the user's age is over 21 and a video session confirms an older gentlemen, then the reliability score of user 'A' may be increased in response to user 'A' providing reliable information consistent with the video session. Conversely, if the video session shows a young child, then the reliability score of user 'A' may be decreased in response to the inconsistent information. In yet another embodiment, the method may include adjusting the confidence score of the personal information based on a pre-established reliability score of a user that provided the ranking for the personal information.

"According to yet another embodiment of the present invention, a computer readable medium having stored thereon computer executable instructions that, if executed by a computer, cause the computer to perform: receiving from a first user on a social network items of personal information about the first user; requesting a plurality of users on the social network to provide to a server veracity feedback concerning one or more of the items of personal information of the first user; assigning a confidence score to each personal information having respective veracity feedback provided by one or more of the plurality of users; and publishing, on the social network, the confidence score of the first user's items of personal information to one or more users of the social network.

"In some embodiments, a computer server or host for a social networking site may be configured to perform a method for defining user attributes with associated verification values for social networking accounts. The host computer may receive user attribute information from clients, wherein each user attribute is provided by an identified account holder. The attributes may concern the user's personal characteristics or attributes, for example, age, gender, geographical location, profession, educational level or group membership. The host computer may store the attributes as associated with the respective account holders providing the attribute information. The host may publish the attribute information to other clients together with interactive objects for soliciting corroboration of the attribute information.

"In addition, or in the alternative, requests for corroboration from the account holder providing the information to be corroborated may be forwarded by the host to host agents for performing expert corroboration services such as ID document checking and remote interviewing. The host may receive evaluation information from the agents responsive to the forwarded requests and store the evaluation information in a database.

"In addition, the host may receive feedback information from other account holders, such as survey response data, concerning the veracity of the attribute information. The feedback information may be weighted by a pre-determined reliability factor for each account holder that provides feedback. The host may store the feedback information with the evaluation information.

"The host may process the evaluation information, the feedback information, or both to provide a veracity score of each attribute reported for each account holder, or for collections of such attributes, by weighing the evaluation information and feedback information by the predetermined reliability factor for each source from which processed information is obtained. The veracity score may express to an estimated level of truth for the reported attributes, which may range anywhere within the range of 0% to 100%. The host computer may report the veracity score to requesting clients so as to provide a score for each reported attribute. The host may report different veracity scores for different attributes. For example, the host may report an 80% veracity score for an attribute describing a user's gender, while reporting a 20% veracity score of an attribute describing in user's age. Such differences may generally arise through differences in feedback from other account holders, differences in amount of feedback received for different information items, and by differences in reliability factors for users providing the feedback.

"In some embodiments, agents providing evaluation information are not employed by the host to develop a veracity score, and feedback information from other account holder is relied on exclusively for this purpose. In such embodiments, it may seem more difficult to obtain veracity scores that are high enough to be useful. Chronically or consistently low veracity scores for all items in a database are of little use because they merely inform users that information on a site is generally not very reliable. What is desired is to assist users in discriminating between more reliable and less reliable information, to reward users that provide accurate information about themselves and others, and to thereby gradually build up more reliable information about members of a site. Surprisingly, a system that does not use trusted evaluation agents or personal confidential information may be able to achieve useful veracity scores merely by requesting and processing feedback from other users of the system. That this is so may be understood in view of the accompanying detailed description.

"A more complete understanding of the method and system for distant evaluation of personal attributes in a social networking environment will be realized by one of ordinary skill in the art, as well as a realization of additional advantages and objects thereof, by considering the following detailed description. Reference will be made to the appended sheets of drawings, which will first be described briefly.


"The present invention, in accordance with one or more various embodiments, is described in detail with reference to the following figures. The drawings are provided for purposes of illustration only and merely depict typical or example embodiments of the invention. These drawings are provided to facilitate the reader's understanding of the invention and shall not be considered limiting of the breadth, scope, or applicability of the invention.

"FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram showing an example environment for implementing confidence evaluation of personal attributes in an online social networking system.

"FIG. 2 is a simplified screenshot showing an example of an interactive survey for collecting veracity feedback data from users evaluating personal attributes of other users.

"FIG. 3 is a simplified screenshot showing an example of a confidence or veracity score concerning a user's personal attributes, based on veracity feedback data from other users.

"FIGS. 4-6 are flow charts showing examples of processes for verifying a user's personal attributes on a social network using veracity feedback from other members of the social network."

For more information, see this patent application: Shuster, Gary Stephen. Evaluation of Remote User Attributes in a Social Networking Environment. Filed July 11, 2013 and posted January 30, 2014. Patent URL:

Keywords for this news article include: Patents.

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Source: Computer Weekly News

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