Facebook shadow profiles. Surely you’ve seen the term bouncing across tech news the past few days, and you’ve got a sense it’s probably some nefarious privacy violation—or just the first fun feature Facebook has introduced in years.
But seriously, are shadow profiles real? Do I have one? Are they bad?
If you use Facebook, then “yes” to all three.
Let’s take a trip into Facebook’s shadowy recesses.
Why are shadow profiles in the news?
Last Friday, right when most journalists were ready to go home for the weekend, Facebook released some embarrassing news. A bug had exposedthe private email addresses and phone numbers of 6 million of its users.
Though Facebook tried to downplay the significance of the bug, journalists rudely forced to work on a weekend quickly realized there was more to the story than just another data leak: Many of the email addresses and phone numbers exposed were not necessarily ever intentionally given to Facebook.
Instead, they were collected on the sly, stored in Facebook’s secret behind the scenes scaffolding, where it collects troves of data on you you’ve never known about. That data on you that you didn’t know Facebook has? That’s a “shadow profile.”
Who has a shadow profile? Are they real?
Well, potentially everyone who has a Facebook account. They contain a certain amount of information you’re not surprised Facebook knows about you—your name, your interests, your relationship status, how many times you’ve liked your friends posts. But at the same time, Facebook’s been able to smartly collect other data about you. Even if you’ve never told Facebook your phone number, for instance, it might have it. As well as your second and third and fourth email addresses.
So where did Facebook get this data?
Your friends! Or maybe even friends of friends. You can thank anyone who allowed Facebook to scan their mobile phone contacts through the “find friends” feature.
When someone uses this feature, Facebook downloads all of a phone’s contact data to its own servers. This includes mostly emails and phone numbers. At the same time, Facebook is also collecting harder-to track data on how you and all your friends and friends of friends are connected to each other. That’s how it finds people to recommend for its “people you may know” feature.
The company’s mobile app even tells you it will do this:
“Find Friends uploads contacts from your device and stores them on Facebook’s servers where they may be used to help others search for people or to generate friend suggestions for you and others.” (Emphasis added)
Does Facebook have shadow profiles on non-Facebook users?
It makes sense that, with all the contact lists uploaded to its servers every day, Facebook would be able to learn a whole lot of information about people who don’t even have Facebook accounts. But while it has stayed mum on shadow accounts as a whole, the company has asserted it does not collect information on people who don’t actually use Facebook.
Is that legal?
In the United States, probably. Facebook mentioned collecting phone contacts in the Terms of Service that all users must agree to before using the site, so unless the company is collecting additional information it didn’tdisclose, users have already given their consent.
But Europe’s data protection laws are much stronger. Max Schrems, owner of Europe vs. Facebook and privacy rights advocate, launched a complaint against Facebook’s European offices, headquartered in Ireland, citing seven different instances where shadow profiles potentially violate the country’s Data Protection Act (read the PDF here). Schrems asserts that the profiles gathered “excessive amounts of information about data subjects without notice or consent by the data subject. In many cases these information might be embarrassing or intimidating for the data subject.”
How long has this been going on?
Facebook said that its user data has been leaking for over a year. Shadow Profiles have been catalogued at least since August 2011, when Schrems filed his complaint against the company. Facebook has had an iPhone app sinceAugust 2007, and the “Find Friends” feature launched on iPhone and Android in April 2011.
Should I be concerned?
Probably! Especially in light of the recent revelations regarding the National Security Agency’s intrusive spying campaign, PRISM. Facebook was one of nine companies the NSA made deals with to turn over information about users. Since Facebook won’t even confirm it hosts “shadow profiles,” its unclear if that information from shadow profiles could have also been passed along to the NSA. But it’s certainly possible.
In other words, you may have an email address that you’ve never listed anywhere for anyone else to see, but because one of your friends added it totheir contact list, a snooping government agency might just discover it.
StarTimes launches new brand, you can watch it without a decorder this Christmas
StarTimes has today launched a new brand that will let you watch StarTimes anywhere anytime. The OTT business StarTimes ON is an online video and TV streaming service dedicated to provide ultimate entertainment and an enriched experience.
“More excellent international and local channels will be put online, and diverse and rich contents will always be the core of StarTimes ON service.” Aldrine Nsubuga Snr Vice President in charge of marketing said.
Top entertainment channels like Novela E plus for telenovelas, AMC Series, ST Bollywood and many others are available for live streaming.
More importantly, popular local FTA channels like Bukedde, NTV,NBS are already on. Football fans can enjoy StarTimes Uganda Premier League, Bundesliga, French League 1 and other sports like boxing, rugby, basketball, cricket can all be enjoyed on World Football, Sports Premium, Sports life channels.
To download and install the StarTimes ON, visit play store or App store or startimestv.com/app
Africa Innovation Challenge launched
Johnson & Johnson ha launched the Champions of Science Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0, the second continent-wide competition calling on African innovators to submit ideas for innovative technologies, products and solutions that have the potential to create positive impact for African communities. The challenge focuses on identifying scalable and sustainable solutions to six major health and environmental problems for Africa’s population.
The Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 is designed to address the critical unmet needs of the continent and local communities in Africa while providing support to Africa-based entrepreneurs in creating innovative health care products and services. Among the selection criteria, entries must demonstrate the potential for scale from proof of concept stage to long-term sustainability. Challenge participants with the best solutions will receive up to US$50,000 in funding and mentorship from the global network of scientists, engineers and business managers within the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies to bring new solutions forward.
“The growing number of innovation hubs throughout Africa is sparking a new generation of entrepreneurs who are innovating and finding new solutions for issues facing their communities,” said Josh Ghaim, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and member of the Johnson & Johnson Research & Development Management Committee, 1 who launched the challenge at the Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum in Cape Town.
“Our goal with the second Africa Innovation Challenge is to expand our support for the region’s entrepreneurs by pushing the boundaries of creative solutions to meet several areas of urgent need. With six new solution categories, Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 represents an extraordinary opportunity for the region’s growing community of innovators to showcase new ideas with the potential for broad societal impact,” added Ghaim.
“At Johnson & Johnson, we believe a great idea can come from anyone, anywhere, and we work with entrepreneurs around the world to relentlessly pursue innovations that advance and enhance the health of everyone, everywhere,” said Seema Kumar, Vice President, Innovation, Global Public Health and Science Policy Communication, Johnson & Johnson and member of the Johnson & Johnson Research & Development Management Committee, who simultaneously launched the challenge at the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference in London.
“This is an exciting time to be part of Africa’s rapidly advancing innovation ecosystem, which recognizes that people and patients across the continent are waiting for urgent solutions. The Africa Innovation Challenge provides an important platform to support emerging entrepreneurs and help accelerate the development of unique, sustainable health care and environmental solutions.”
“The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies comprises of one of the world’s largest health care companies and is drawing on over 85 years of engagement in Africa in over 25 countries, and we are proud to support Africa’s rapidly advancing innovation ecosystem,” said Alma Scott, Vice President, Operations and Partnerships, Global Public Health, Johnson & Johnson. 2 “We’ve learned over time that solving last-mile challenges through local empowerment offers the greatest potential impact in the fight against public health challenges, and that it can also help fuel the local economy and catalyze infrastructure investments.”
Airtel Uganda launches affordable 4G Smartphone series
Airtel Uganda has launched affordable 4G smartphone series in Uganda. The phone that costs only UGX200,000 comes with value back to the customer of free 15GB of data worth UGX90,000 valid for 90 days. This means that subscribers will enjoy 5GB per month for the next 3 months after purchase of the phone.
Commenting about the new phone, Airtel Uganda Chief Commercial Officer Mr. Amit Kapur expressed excitement at the opportunities that an affordable smartphone will bring to subscribers.
“As a brand with a promise to improve lives, we believe that with an affordable smartphone we shall improve Ugandans’ lives through education, e-commerce, financial inclusion and the full offerings of Airtel Uganda’s reliable network,” he said.
“Airtel has the largest 4G network in Uganda with high speeds and most importantly at affordable rates. My First 4G Smartphone offers a complete package to include a 4G phone, data, quality network and Sim Card to the convenience of the user.”
The Airtel 4G phone runs on Android 8.1 operating system and will give subscribers the freedom to use any other network SIM card in addition to the mandatory Airtel SIM Card. With an 8GB ROM and 1GB RAM, the phone, which has a front 2MP and back 5MP camera also comes with a flash light and WIFI capabilities.
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