Peak Zuck: "What's a shadow profile?"

Originally published at:


If I may translate: “You agree to our collection of your data by turning on your computer and / or purchasing a cell phone. If you do not want this service, you have to option of not accessing the internet.”


Yeah, that’s the liar you want to entrust with your data (assuming you’re offered the choice to do so at all).


Get a warrant to search the top of his head. He’s hiding stuff there.


Oh, I was wondering how “Anyone can turn off and opt out of any data collection for ads” worked if you didn’t have any sort of account through which to interact with Facebook.


Should have sworn him in. I wonder if that was the result of negotiations and if so they should’ve just subpoenaed his ass.


To be fair, he can’t be expected to have all the engineering data memorized. That said, he knew what questions to expect - and his PR department already has answers prepared.


This seems like pretty standard evasion, where the congressmen are talking about one thing, while Zuck is pretending not to understand and talking about another.

Shadow profiles is a recent name people outside Facebook give to the practice. They probably have some cute, internal name they’ve been using within Facebook for a decade, like “impressions” or “fingerprints”. The first thing Zuck’s lawyers will tell him is to never give the impression you know what they’re talking about and get yourself tripped up. (That’s good advice even if you aren’t trying to be evasive.)

Instead, he’s going to make them explain every question, and if they can’t articulate the question, it’s on them. He’ll pretend he’s never read any outside news about his company, and so he does not know what who said “shadow profile” or what it’s meant to refer to.

For his part, Lujan still does a bad job of pinning down what he means before moving on. That basically gives Zuck the chance to spin whatever he wants (yes, when some random IP address who doesn’t have a Facebook cookie pings us with an unauthorized request, we log it for security; so in a sense, yes, we track non-members) instead of what people care about (we also incidentally log every keystroke and scroll made by pretty much anyone reading an article on the modern web).

Like most congressional hearings, it’s a place for congressmen who are already mad to be seen ‘doing something’ while whoever they’re yelling at is just trying to get through the day without saying something that drags the process out longer. It’s a ritual we go through as society because the real legal process does not make for good television.

And ultimately, when it’s all over, Facebook will welcome regulation. Until and industry is regulated, no one has articulated what constitutes the bare minimum amount of work to be done, so everyone wings it, maybe trying a little hard to avoid being sued. Once an industry is regulated, they then know exactly the bare minimum amount of work to be done, and you have implicit permission to stop there. They can always respond to every complaint with, “we live up to our legal obligations under the Bare Minimums Act.”

And large companies love regulation more, because it’s a barrier to their competitors. Facebook is already paying for legal teams and compliance officers. New laws just justify their budgets. Facebook as a company can afford to jump through the hoops, whereas ‘the next Facebook’ probably will not be able to.


I’m guessing the name comes from the same people who brought us React and the Shadow DOM. And I have learned the hard way not to rely upon any technology that comes out of Facebook, be it React or HHVM or any of their APIs. Why should their internal nomenclature be any less chaotic or cutesy?


So, where’s the button to make sure I’m worth less than $0 to Facebook (since collecting data “for security purposes” costs money and advertising they can only make money on me by charging advertisers for some sort of access to my data)?




Hey Mark:

Yeah, the context doesn’t quite fit. But the rabbit still makes a good point.


No, I never “agreed to this” because I’ve never had a Facebook account. I hope there’s a class action lawsuit for people like me.


I was listening to an NPR radio show a couple of weeks ago where they kept going on about how “idealistic” Silicon Valley was about data sharing. (I’d use scare quotes for Silicon Valley as well, but that looks weird.) As a Silicon Valley programmer, I just about choked on all of the brainless horse manure these people were spewing about Zuck’s naive devotion to the principles of data freedom as a force for good in the world. Granted, I don’t work for Facebook and would never do so, but I have yet to see their postulated airy attitudes in any of the tech companies I’ve worked for.

Zuck may be autistic, but nothing he’s ever said or done has indicated he’s naive or idealistic. At best he’s a timid sociopath. He sees users as a product and human data as the golden road to domination.

I was on Facebook for a few brief months about eight years ago, then I deleted my account in disgust. I deeply resent any shadow profiles or other data these un-indicted criminals may have on me. Whatever I could legally do to hinder or damage Facebook, I would gladly do. Not much chance of that, though.


Am I misunderstanding, or was NPR calling hoarding, controlling access to and selling data “sharing”/“freedom”?


Facebook Lobbyist: “Here’s $$$$$$$. Special treatment is expected.”

Congressperson: Of course, but I can’t provide that treatment unless I’m in office, and that means having to feign due diligence when forced to by an angry electorate. Capisce?"

Facebook Lobbyist: Understood. No problem. We’ll make sure the Big Boss has a suit… just in case.


Liar. And to Congress, no less!


It’s for “security purposes.” You do support security don’t you? Or are you terrorist?
Hmm. Maybe we should check our security profile on you.

ETA: /s, because the world is f’ing insane.


I have seen them on my sister’s facebook account. It looks like a blank photo of a person with a name against it. The name shadow profile made absolute sense to me and I immediately associated it with the feature I had seen. It surprises me that Zuckerberg didn’t immediately make the same connection.

I’d be willing to bet you have a Facebook tracking cookie on your PC right now, unless you’ve taken extraordinary efforts to keep them off.