Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Dynamic Enforcement of Privacy Settings by a Social Networking System on Information Shared with an External System", for Approval
The patent's assignee is
News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "A system, such as a website, that allows users to interact with the system typically stores a record for each users of the system. These records may comprise information provided by the user as well as information gathered by the system related to activities or actions of the user on the system. For example, a system may require a user to enter information such as contact information, gender, preferences, interests, and the like in an initial interaction with the system, which is stored in the user's record. A user's activities on the system, such as frequency of access to particular information on the system, also provide information that can be stored in the user's record. The system may then use information provided by the user and information gathered about the user, to constantly customize interactions of the system with the user. For example, a website selling books may keep track of a users previous purchases and provide the user with information on related books during subsequent interactions with the system. Information in a user's profile may also be used by the system to target advertisements that are of interest to the user. Using information collected from and about users results in a system that is more efficient and beneficial for both the user and the system.
"However, prior systems, including websites, lack the ability to use information associated with a user's social connections or activities to customize and/or personalize the user's experience while using the system. Access to information about the user's social interactions and/or the activities of a user's social connections (e.g. friends, family, co-workers, etc.) improves the user's experience while using the system and increases the chance that the user will use the system in the future. For example, users visiting a website that sells books may be interested in books that their social connections have looked at, book reviews or comments provided by their social connections, and other social information that might inform their purchases of book from the website. The system itself also benefits, because it can leverage information about the user and the user's social connections to more accurately determine what a user might be interested in. Such a system can use social information to customize a user's experience and target products, services and/or advertisements to the user.
"Typical systems do not possess sufficient information about a user's social connections to customize the user's experience or effectively target advertising to the user. Assembling enough information about a user's social connections for these purposes requires a system to interact with a large number of users over an extended period of time. The majority of websites will not have the resources, expertise, or user base required to build and maintain a system of the scale necessary to capture, organize and maintain a sufficient amount of information about users' social connections and their activities. Thus, users of these systems will have an inferior experience, and the customization/personalization provided by these sites is unlikely to accurately take into account or reflect information about the user's social connections and their activities.
"A social networking system may establish privacy settings to allow users to decide who can access information associated with the user within the social networking system. Existing social networking systems enforce these privacy settings to control how information is used within the social networking system, but do not provide for enforcement of privacy settings outside the social networking system. A user who is not allowed to access particular information associated with another user within the social networking system should not be allowed to see the same information outside of the social networking system. When social network information is made available to external systems outside the social networking service, there are no existing techniques for enforcing the privacy settings established within the social networking service, outside that system on external systems. This is an even more difficult problem to resolve where privacy settings on the social networking system may be changed over time."
As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "To enforce privacy settings, which may change over time, embodiments of a social networking system maintain information related to actions of its users, where this information may be accessed and used by external systems. The social networking system enforces privacy settings that determine accessibility to information within the social networking system, as well as outside the social networking service. The privacy settings are enforced outside of the social networking system in the external systems. Embodiments of the invention propagate dynamic changes to the privacy settings within the social networking system to the external systems.
"An embodiment presents a computer implemented method for sharing social network information with an external system subject to dynamic privacy settings. The social networking system maintains privacy settings containing rules for sharing social network information. A request for information associated with a user of the social networking system is received from an external system. A response to the request is determined and social network information is transmitted to the external system with the associated privacy settings for that information. In an embodiment, the response to the request comprises a subset of the requested information determined based on the privacy settings. When privacy settings are updated affecting one or more of the rules for sharing of social network information, the updates to the privacy settings are enforced in the external system by communications between the social networking system and the external system. In an embodiment, the communication is a message from the social networking system to the external system requesting the external system to cease using the information obtained in the previously transmitted response. In another embodiment, the social networking system and the external system have a previous agreement that the external system will use social network information for no more than a predetermined time period after receiving the social network information. In such an embodiment, the external system sends a request to the social networking system for updated information associated with the user when social network information is invalidated after the predetermined interval of time.
"Another embodiment presents a computer implemented method for an external system to use social network information shared by a social networking system subject to dynamic privacy settings. An external system interacts with a user of the social networking service. If the external system wants social network information associated with the user of the social networking system, the external system sends a request to the social networking system. The external system's use of the information is governed by the privacy settings associated with the information it receives. If privacy settings are updated in the social networking system, the external system receives a communication from the social networking system. The information that has been received from the social networking system is then used in accordance with the updated privacy settings. In one embodiment, the communication received from the social networking system is a request to the external system to cease using the information provided by the social networking system. In another embodiment, the social networking system and the external system have previously agreed that the external system will use social network information for no more than a predetermined time period after it is received.
"The features and advantages described in this summary and the following detailed description are not all-inclusive. Many additional features and advantages will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art in view of the drawings, specification, and claims hereof.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
"FIG. 1 is high-level diagram illustrating how an external system can interact with a social networking system and client devices, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.
"FIG. 2 is an example diagram of privacy settings of a user of a social networking system, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.
"FIG. 3 is an interaction diagram of a process in which the social networking system actively invalidates information in an external system in response to changes to privacy settings, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.
"FIG. 4 is an interaction diagram of a process in which an external system refreshes information obtained from a social networking system after a pre-determined time interval in order to enforce updates to privacy settings, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.
"The figures depict various embodiments of the present invention for purposes of illustration only. One skilled in the art will readily recognize from the following discussion that alternative embodiments of the structures and methods illustrated herein may be employed without departing from the principles of the invention described herein."
For additional information on this patent application, see: Vernal,
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