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Facebook Caught Building ‘Shadow Profiles’ of Non-Members 

FoxNews.com
October 21, 2011

Eight hundred million users are not enough. Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, is now building profiles of non-users who haven’t even signed up, an international privacy watchdog charges.

The sensational claim is made in a complaint filed in August by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner. It alleges that users are encouraged to hand over the personal data of other people — including names, phone numbers, email addresses and more — which Facebook is using to create “extensive profiles” of non-users.

Facebook categorically denies the allegation, but experts tell FoxNews.com that it could well be true.

“There can be little doubt that Facebook collects from its current users information about individuals who are not currently Facebook users, and collects from its current users information about other Facebook users,” said Kelly Kubasta, who heads the Dallas law firm Klemchuk Kubasta’s social media division.

Ciara O’Sullivan, a spokeswoman for Ireland’s Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, told FoxNews.com that its audit of Facebook Ireland’s privacy policies was part of a “statutory investigation” that the office anticipates will lead to immediate changes.

“The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner will be commencing a comprehensive audit of Facebook Ireland before the end of the month,” O’Sullivan said.

But Facebook denies that it is creating “shadow profiles” and tracking users and non-users alike.

“Facebook does not track users across the web,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “We use cookies on social plug-ins to personalize content, to help maintain and improve what we do, or for safety and security.”

Furthermore, Facebook says that no information it receives from users is employed to target ads, and that it does not resell information from users to third parties. The company prominently posts its established privacy policy on its Web site.

But that isn’t what they’re thinking in Ireland. The complaint makes clear that it believes Facebook is doing just that — and enumerates several scenarios that would give any social-networker shivers.

“Facebook Ireland is gathering excessive amounts of information about data subjects without notice or consent by the data subject,” the complaint states, adding that in many cases the information “might be embarrassing or intimidating for the data subject. This information might also constitute sensitive data such as political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, sexual orientation and so forth.”

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About the author:

Luis Miranda is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at The Real Agenda. His career spans over 17 years and almost every form of news media. He attended Montclair State University's School of Broadcasting and also obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. Luis speaks English, Spanish Portuguese and Italian.

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