Facebook Shadow Profiles: The 5 things you need to know

Chris Burns - Apr 12, 2018
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Facebook Shadow Profiles: The 5 things you need to know

Today Mark Zuckerberg publicly denied knowledge of the term “Shadow Profile” at a congressional hearing. Zuckerberg did not deny knowledge of the definition of Facebook’s shadow profiles, but he did attempt to cut ties between the definition and the commonly-known name for the subject. Today we’ve got a quick primer on the Facebook-made Shadow Profile.

1. What’s a Shadow Profile?

All of the information Facebook has compiled on you – whether or not you’ve released said info to Facebook – is what’s known as a Shadow Profile. This is not a term that Facebook uses, officially – or at least it’s not one they’ll admit to using publicly. This refusal to admit knowledge of the term Shadow Profile goes all the way to the top.

2. I don’t have a Facebook account, WTF?

Facebook almost certainly has data about you stored on a server somewhere. Even if you do not have a Facebook page, Facebook likely has data about you. To access this data, you need a Facebook account. If you do not have a Facebook account, you are not allowed access to the data Facebook has stored on you. That’s not illegal – it’s just rude.

See for yourself. Head over to Archive.IS to view the Facebook page called “I don’t have a Facebook account and would like to request all personal data stored by Facebook.” That page SHOULD link to a page called “Personal Data Requests” with several options available on it. One option should be “I don’t have a Facebook account.”

Unfortunately, the most updated version of Facebook’s “Personal Data Requests” page is archived here. That page gives only one option. You’ll need a Facebook account to move forward – and you can download all the data you’ve racked up since you signed up on Facebook – that’s it. Because that’s it, chances are Facebook has more they’re not sharing.

3. Facebook denied Shadow Profiles before

There was a massive trial and ruling in the year 2011. The trial was HUGE. Even when Facebook lost the case, they still didn’t release info as they were told and denied claims that they’d collected any information that they weren’t allowed access to.

4. Shadow Profiles won’t go away, right?

Over the past several weeks we’ve seen quite a bit of backlash over Facebook’s latest series of privacy blunders. Emboldened Facebook users started an internet-based hashtag movement of Facebook-quitters since the first of this round of bad publicity moments began. In mid-March, we detailed How to delete your Facebook.

We also discussed how we probably can’t actually delete all the data on us Facebook’s already gathered. The company’s never allowed the average citizen full access to the data they have on-file. Because of this, chances are slim Facebook will ever delete everything they’ve got on any one person.

You CAN, on the other hand, see all the info Facebook shared with Cambridge Analytica. There’s a handy tool to check all the things the big C.A. probably have on you. Cross your fingers and your toes in hopes that your list is short.

5. Zuck is “not familiar with that”

During Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance at a congressional hearing this week, the CEO and co-founder of Facebook denied knowledge of Facebook’s Shadow Profiles. This is the head of a company at a hearing about a negative subject suggesting they do not know the most common nickname for the negative subject at hand.

• Zuckerberg: Congressman in general we collect data on people who have not signed up for Facebook for security purposes to prevent the kind of scraping you were just referring to.

• Congressman Ben Lujan: So these are called shadow profiles, is that what they’ve been referred to by some?

• Zuckerberg: Congressman, I’m not, I’m not familiar with that.

• Congressman Ben Lujan: I’ll refer to them as shadow profiles for today’s hearing.

It’s probably a matter of Zuckerberg’s legal council telling him to avoid knowledge of the term “shadow profile,” even if he knew exactly what it was. But it’s fun imagining Zuckerberg being so extremely out-of-touch that he’s unaware of the fact that the internet knows what a Facebook shadow profile is. Either way, things up in congress are pretty awkward with Zuckerberg this week.


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