Facebook Shadow Profile


A Facebook Shadow Profile refers to a collection of data that Facebook accumulates about individuals who don’t have an account on the platform, gathered through various sources such as contact lists, email addresses, phone numbers, and shared information from Facebook users. This data helps Facebook create a virtual profile of a non-user, which can be used for targeted advertising and other purposes. Although the non-users never consented to this data collection, it is considered a controversial practice, raising concerns over privacy and data protection.


The phonetic transcription of the keyword “Facebook Shadow Profile” using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is:’feɪsbʊk ‘ʃædoʊ ‘proʊfaɪlHere’s the breakdown for each word:- Facebook: /’feɪsbʊk/- Shadow: /’ʃædoʊ/- Profile: /’proʊfaɪl/

Key Takeaways

  1. Facebook Shadow Profiles are collections of data that the platform gathers about non-users, based on the information and interactions of existing users.
  2. These profiles can be created without the knowledge or consent of the individuals concerned, raising significant concerns about privacy and data protection.
  3. Facebook has faced criticism and legal challenges for its creation and use of Shadow Profiles, with users and privacy advocates demanding more transparency and control over personal data.


The term “Facebook Shadow Profile” is important because it highlights a significant privacy concern within the realm of technology and social media.

A shadow profile is an anonymous profile created by Facebook for individuals who are not registered users, but whose personal information may have been collected via friends and other online activities.

This data collection occurs through various methods, such as importing contacts, tagging people in pictures, or sharing information about non-users.

The existence of shadow profiles raises concerns over user privacy, control over personal information, and the ethical responsibility of tech companies towards non-users who may be unaware that their data is being collected and used.

Consequently, understanding and addressing the issues surrounding Facebook Shadow Profiles is crucial for promoting transparency and better privacy practices in the digital world.


A Facebook Shadow Profile serves the purpose of gathering and maintaining data on individuals who may not even have a Facebook account themselves. This is accomplished through various sources, such as the information provided by a user’s friends or contacts who do have Facebook accounts. These friends or contacts might unwittingly share information about a non-user while syncing their contacts, enabling Facebook to collect data in the background without the explicit consent or awareness of the individual it pertains to.

Additionally, data may also be collected through cookies that track user activity when a non-user visits a website with embedded Facebook content, like a “Like” button. The primary use of Facebook Shadow Profiles is to support the company’s social graph and advertising systems. As Facebook continuously seeks to maximize its business revenue, the existence and utilization of shadow profiles expands the company’s reach in terms of advertising and user engagement.

Shadow profiles provide insights into potential connections between users and non-users alike, facilitating the expansion of their social graph. This, in turn, allows Facebook to offer targeted advertisements tailored to the interests and habits of both its users and non-users. Despite the controversy surrounding the concept of shadow profiles, Facebook continues to capitalize on the information collated to enhance its services and, ultimately, its bottom line.

Examples of Facebook Shadow Profile

Data Collection from Non-Users: In 2018, it was revealed that Facebook had been gathering data on people who had never even signed up for the platform – a practice called shadow profiling. Some individuals discovered that Facebook had stored extensive information about them, such as call logs, text messages, and contacts from their mobile phones. This data collection occurred through apps that requested access to users’ contacts for legitimate purposes, like sharing an article or event, but ultimately resulted in non-users being added to Facebook’s shadow profile database.

Cambridge Analytica scandal: In 2018, it was exposed that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent. This data included not only the information provided by users themselves but also the data from their shadow profiles. Cambridge Analytica used this information to create targeted political advertisements and attempt to influence voting behavior. The scandal raised concerns about how companies could misuse shadow profile data and the lack of transparency regarding how Facebook obtained and shared such data.

Facial Recognition Technology: Facebook has been using facial recognition technology to suggest tags on photos and identify people, even if they are not tagged by name. This technology utilizes shadow profiles by comparing the facial features in uploaded photos with the facial data stored in Facebook’s database, including that of non-users. In 2020, Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of violating an Illinois law regarding the use of facial recognition technology. The lawsuit raised awareness about how shadow profiles might infringe on users’ privacy rights and pose unanticipated risks.

Facebook Shadow Profile FAQ

What is a Facebook Shadow Profile?

A Facebook Shadow Profile is a data profile created by Facebook for people who do not have accounts on the platform. This data is collected from various sources, including information provided by their friends and family, digital footprints left on the web, and other data brokers that Facebook partners with.

How does Facebook create Shadow Profiles?

Facebook creates Shadow Profiles by aggregating data from multiple sources. Some of the data comes from users who have connected their contact lists, email accounts, or phone numbers to Facebook. Other information may be gathered from third-party websites, apps, and services that utilize Facebook’s tracking tools and technologies, such as the Facebook Pixel or Like buttons.

Why does Facebook create Shadow Profiles?

Facebook creates Shadow Profiles to enhance its advertising and marketing capabilities by getting a better understanding of its audience and their connections. By collecting data on non-users, Facebook can tailor ads to them if they eventually join the platform or improve ad targeting for existing users based on their connections to non-users.

Can I view or delete my Facebook Shadow Profile?

No, you cannot view or delete your Facebook Shadow Profile if you do not have a Facebook account. Additionally, if you have a Facebook account, you can access and control the information collected by the platform to a certain extent, but you may not be able to view or delete everything associated with a potential Shadow Profile.

What can I do to protect my privacy from Facebook Shadow Profiles?

To protect your privacy from Facebook Shadow Profiles, you can limit the information shared on digital platforms, ask friends and family not to share your personal information on Facebook, and use privacy-focused tools like browser extensions, tracking blockers, and virtual private networks (VPNs) to limit the data collected when browsing the web.

Related Technology Terms

  • Data Aggregation
  • Privacy Invasion
  • Online Tracking
  • Third-Party Data
  • Social Graph

Sources for More Information


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