Facebook Shadow Profile and How It Affects You


Facebook’s People You May Know suggestions and detailed friend insights stem from the existence of Shadow Profiles, a behind-the-scenes collection of your connections and activities on the platform. Discover the implications of these covert profiles and their impact on your online experience.

Facebook Shadow Profile

A Shadow Profile, ethically questionable, compiles an individual’s data from their contacts, even without explicit consent. Consider a scenario: if you and three others share a common contact named Pete, and you grant contact access to a social media site, it scans your connections, intertwining your network with others who’ve done the same – all without their direct approval. This practice raises concerns about privacy and consent in the digital realm.

As it scans for users, the platform stores details of non-members like common friend Pete, creating a Shadow Profile exclusive to the website. While inaccessible to users, this profile becomes a tool for services such as targeted advertising, raising concerns about data privacy and usage.

Upon Pete’s registration, he receives recommendations from all four users, leveraging the Shadow Profile’s stored data. Even without his signup, the shadow profile persists, serving as a reservoir for accumulating and storing potentially useful information.

How Is Facebook Related to Shadow Profiles

Ever since data leaks from Facebook came to light back in 2019, Facebook has been into many controversies involving privacy and data security. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, was also in a streak of sessions with the American Congress involving privacy concerns. The short story is that Mark acknowledged Facebook collects data on users who are not signed up to Facebook and profiles them in their user database, essentially tagging them under Shadow Profiles.

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This is a good time to add or remove Admins from your Facebook page if you don’t want to be linked to other people.

While Mark denied knowing the term “shadow profile” because it is mostly used by privacy advocates and data security personnel, this doesn’t change the fact that Facebook collects data that you’ve not authorized the platform to collect. Regardless if you’re a user or not.

Which Data Is Being Stored in My Shadow Profile

Your data in the Facebook Shadow Profile encompasses details from your apps, visited websites, and connections, extending to information derived from other users’ contact lists, even if your link to them is indirect or obscure.

These shadow profiles may or may not contain photos of you that were posted by your friends on their profile, or the dinner you had last week. Earlier Facebook also launched a face recognition tech but later shut its operations stating privacy concerns and deleted over a billion user’s face data from their servers which further raises questions.

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How Does Facebook Gather Data for Shadow Profiles

Imagine you’ve gone out with your friends for a weekend getaway, but Facebook is constantly tracking you for what app you’re using on your phone, what food you ordered, who you met with today, what hotel you chose on Kayak, etc.

According to the media.ccc research, over 61% of apps they tested automatically send data to Facebook the moment you open the app including your advertising ID, personalized tags, and other personal data. This was also shown with a live example of the Kayak app sending data requests to Facebook and many other data companies. So even if you haven’t signed up on the app, Facebook is tracking your actions.

The majority of apps nowadays use the Facebook SDK, which allows them to have options like “Login with Facebook” or “Continue with Facebook” etc. which makes it easier for users to log in, but also puts their privacy at risk.

Continue with Facebook option in Spotify using Facebook SDK

Upon opening the app, data sharing with Facebook commences, intensified if you opt for “Continue with Facebook,” intertwining your profile with the new app. The SDK not only tailors ads to your usage but can discern specifics like completing a prayer in an app, showcasing the meticulous extent of Facebook’s data storage practices.

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Privacy Policy Updates as per Facebook

There is also the question of leaks that happen in data centers. There have been data leaks before which have compromised some users’ profile data and it was also acknowledged by the social media giant.

The last update made to Facebook Privacy Policy was in January 2023, and mainly focussed on things like the information you chose to give to Facebook by signing up to use the service, friends, followers, and app connections you make on the platform, browser or device information, and information from partners, vendors, and third parties. So, that’s basically all the information you have, on or off Facebook.

Information that Facebook collects on everyone including non-users

Facebook Shadow Profiles

Despite Facebook’s efforts to enhance privacy post data leaks, it’s crucial to remain vigilant as your privacy and security are still at risk. Exercise caution when using services and granting permissions.

Know beforehand how to log out of Facebook on all devices and what happens when you do so if you still want to keep using Facebook.



Works as an in-house Writer at Gulf Tech Plus and focuses on the latest smart consumer electronics. Closely follows the latest trends in consumer IoT and how it affects our daily lives. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

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