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Facebook's Shadow Profiles
By: Jessica Cherok
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Last week, we learned there had been a glitch in Facebook resulting in the personal information of millions of users being unintentionally disclosed. While Facebook reassured its users that this glitch was purely accidental and that none of the information appeared to be used for nefarious purposes, it also revealed the existence of so-called “shadow profiles.”

When I first wrote the Digital Pivot article last week about Facebook’s glitch, there was already some information swirling about these apparent shadow profiles. Now, I promise you — harshing on Facebook’s privacy faux pas is probably one of my favorite things to do. However, I decided to hold off for two reasons. First, I wanted to make sure shadow profiles were really a thing. Sometimes there can be a lot of hyper-reaction to news about glitches, bugs, and security incidents. Suddenly everyone is Chicken Little shouting about how the sky is falling down upon us. Secondly, if these shadow profiles really existed, what would that mean for the average user?

Turns out shadow profiles do exist. And they potentially contain all kinds of your personal information, even if you didn’t directly supply it to Facebook. Once again — whether they know it or not — your Facebook friends have helped associate you with information.

Now, what does this mean for you? Well, that depends on how much you worry about your information being collected without your knowledge. Or how annoyed you are by the fact that no matter how much you check, double-check, recheck, adjust, etc. your privacy settings on Facebook, it doesn’t seem to keep your information protected.

Like I said, I certainly enjoy humorously pointing out when Facebook isn’t using common sense in their privacy practices, but every once in a while the kind of stuff they do completely creeps me out.

   

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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