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A Facebook shadow profile is a hidden user profile that is created by Facebook and used to recommend friends and new connections and for social data analysis/mining. Facebook maintains these profiles, which are not deliberately shared or disclosed to individuals or account owners.
Shadow profile data is harvested from an actual Facebook profile, a user's email contacts, posts of interest and other activity. It is believed that shadow profiles are maintained for all Facebook users and that Facebook may retain email addresses and other information about non-users. Such data may include any individual or user tagged in a photo, mentioned in a discussion or listed in email or smartphone contact lists.
It has long been suspected that Facebook maintained a user information information, but the issue came to light in June 2013 when a bug exposed the private information of six million Facebook users. Because Facebook has more than one billion users worldwide, privacy experts fear that this data could be breached, sold or used for other commercial purposes.
Facebook's data gathering has been criticized for years, but the company has consistently defended its actions and refuses to give users greater control over the type and use of collected data.