After last week’s Facebook security breach which leaked contact information for approximately six million users, many are outraged. The leaking of confidential data seems to be just a small part of this story. What has people furious is Facebook’s collection of data that you didn’t even know they had – your “shadow profile.”
What’s a shadow profile anyway?
By now, you probably know—and have accepted—that Facebook tracks certain data about you. But the social networking giant may also have information that you’ve never shared with it before like your phone number and additional email addresses for example. This information is now included in your shadow profile.
Through Facebook features such as “Find Friends,” which grants access to address books, the network sifts through contacts listed in your friend’s phone to make it easy to find people on Facebook. When a friend does this, Facebook saves information about you including your phone number and email address.
As stated in a Forbes article:
The other potential use of those shadow profiles that might would be for advertising. Facebook allows advertisers to target particular users if they have their email addresses. (So if Starbucks or some random band has gotten a hold of my email address, they can put an ad in front of me for a frappuccino discount or a show announcement.) By building out a robust list of all possible contact mechanisms through scouring your friends’ contact books, Facebook could offer the best in individual targeting.
But Facebook says it’s not using the info that way. A Facebook rep says the shadow contacts are not available for use by advertisers.
I think that even advertisers would agree that this means of accessing email addresses and phone numbers seems like a dirty practice, as this information was not specifically shared with Facebook.
What side are you on in this debate – are you OK with Facebook compiling information or do you feel uncomfortable with your privacy being encroached upon? Let us know.