There are currently very few Internet users who are unaware of Facebook’s privacy scandal and data mining practices. Facebook is probably one of the few companies in Silicon Valley to be accused of illegally collecting and using user data. Due to these reasons, the founder of Facebook has also suffered a lot personally. Another of Facebook’s privacy scandals and data mining practices is the shadow profile, which most internet users are unaware of. If this is your first time listening to this term, let us know,
What is a shadow profile?
The shadow profile thing is not really something new invented by Facebook. What is meant by shadow profiles is that even if you do not have your own account or profile on any social media or website, they collect some information about you and store it in their database. This practice of data collection is called shadow profile.
But yes, not all websites or social media do it. Many of the social media or online services or e-commerce industries that gain popularity like Facebook, Google or Amazon and work with the data of billions of users every day, use the shadow profile method to collect user data. It’s not that Facebook is creating a shadow profile alone. Maybe companies like Google, Amazon, Uber are also using this type of data collection method, but it is not proven. Now maybe you can ask,
Why shadow profile?
If you ask why Facebook creates shadow profiles and what Facebook uses the data from these shadow profiles, the answer will depend on who you are asking. For example, if you ask a Facebook employee why Facebook does this, they will probably answer that the People You May Know algorithm requires a shadow profile. Because of the shadow profile, after you create a Facebook account, Facebook can automatically find out about your circle of friends and show you the online profiles of your potential friends. However, its uses do not end here.
Excluding all the logic, why would any company or Facebook create a shadow user profile for someone who is not actually a user? It sounds ridiculous, but it has some benefits for Facebook. We have all heard the term Data is the new oil. Truth be told, tech companies nowadays have nothing more valuable than user data. So if Facebook can store some estimated data about their future customers in advance, then that in-future can be convenient for their business.
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How to create a shadow profile?
It may sound hard, but it’s really easy for a company like Facebook or Google to create a shadow profile. This is because they already have billions of users who, knowingly or unknowingly, are helping them create shadow profiles. How? Well suppose you are a normal internet and smartphone user, but you don’t use Facebook or any of the services under Facebook. But you have a lot of friends who use Facebook and other social media. Your phone number, your name must be saved in their contact list. Again, it is often seen that your address, your email address are also saved. And they use Facebook, so you can assume that they have allowed the Facebook app to access their contact list. Because, why not?
Now think about how easy it is for Facebook Corporation to collect information about you. They are getting your name, your phone number from your friends’ contact list, and if you are lucky enough to know your address and your email address. Now if you are not a Facebook user, they will be able to store your information in their database for the future. Because, as I said before, Data is the new oil. Moreover, Facebook is not the only way to collect your information. It’s just the easiest and straight forward way. There are thousands of other ways Facebook can create your shadow profile, if they want.
What do we have to do?
The simple answer is nothing. Honestly, you or I are such an un-important person that even if our data is stored on Facebook against our will, we will never get anything out of it. We will never know why and how Facebook is using our shadow profile. So it is better not to think about these, unless you are a very privacy concerned person. However, if you want to take any precaution, do not give access to your contact book to Just Facebook app or Messenger or any app under Facebook, such as Instagram or WhatsApp. However, this will not stop giant tech companies like Facebook from doing data mining, but it is a good practice not to give any app access to the contact book.
This was the basic idea about Facebook and Shadow Profiles. I am ending here like today. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comments section!