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Ahh, the world is a wonderful place. And truth is indeed sometimes stranger than fiction.

Mark Zuckerberg, the man who some believe has done more to erode privacy than anyone else, has been awarded his first ever patent … for privacy. Patent #8,225,376 limits what users reveal online by implementing a privacy policy on their status updates and profile information.

We know patents are important to Facebook. The company recently spent $550 million on a bundle of AOL patents, via Microsoft. And the social network bought another 750 patents from IBM this year, all part of an aggressive strategy to build up a portfolio that earlier this year included only 56 patents, with 503 filed and pending. Part of its effort to stock up on patents might be motivated by the fact that Yahoo in March sued Facebook for patent infringement, although the two companies settled that dispute earlier in July.

Patents are one of the weapons of modern corporate warfare, and Facebook is just one participant in the arms race.


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This particular patent was rejected a number of times, says ReadWriteWeb, for obviousness and overly-broad language in some of its claims.

According to the abstract, the patent is for dynamically generating a view of a user’s profile page that is compliant with the user’s stated privacy preferences:

A system and method for dynamically generating a privacy summary is provided. The present invention provides a system and method for dynamically generating a privacy summary. A profile for a user is generated. One or more privacy setting selections are received from the user associated with the profile. The profile associated with the user is updated to incorporate the one or more privacy setting selections. A privacy summary is then generated for the profile based on the one or more privacy setting selections.

The technology could be used to show different information (phone numbers, email address, photos, and so on) to different people, depending on their relationship. My friend gets all my information; my business contact only gets some.

This is the first patent Zuckerberg has ever applied for, and the first to be awarded to him. More, apparently, are in the works.

Image credit: Jennifer Van Grove

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