Facebook Shadow Profiles

14 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2022

See all articles by Luis Aguiar

Luis Aguiar

University of Zurich - Department of Business Administration

Christian Peukert

University of Lausanne (HEC)

Maximilian Schaefer

Yale University - Department of Economics; Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna

Hannes Ullrich

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) - Innovation, Management, Service; University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 8, 2022

Abstract

Data is often at the core of digital products and services, especially when related to online advertising. This has made data protection and privacy a major policy concern. When surfing the web, consumers leave digital traces that can be used to build user profiles and infer preferences. We quantify the extent to which Facebook can track web behavior outside of their own platform. The network of engagement buttons, placed on third-party websites, lets Facebook follow users as they browse the web. Tracking users outside its core platform enables Facebook to build shadow profiles. For a representative sample of US internet users, 52 percent of websites visited, accounting for 40 percent of browsing time, employ Facebook's tracking technology. Small differences between Facebook users and non-users are largely explained by differing user activity. The extent of shadow profiling Facebook may engage in is similar on privacy-sensitive domains and across user demographics, documenting the possibility for indiscriminate tracking.

Keywords: facebook, privacy, user data, web tracking, shadow profiles

JEL Classification: D18, L4, L5 L86

Suggested Citation

Aguiar, Luis and Peukert, Christian and Schaefer, Maximilian and Ullrich, Hannes and Ullrich, Hannes, Facebook Shadow Profiles (February 8, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4030019 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4030019

Luis Aguiar

University of Zurich - Department of Business Administration ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zurich, CH-8006
Switzerland

Christian Peukert (Contact Author)

University of Lausanne (HEC) ( email )

Unil Dorigny, Batiment Internef
Lausanne, 1015
Switzerland

Maximilian Schaefer

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna ( email )

Bologna
Italy

Hannes Ullrich

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) - Innovation, Management, Service ( email )

Mohrenstraße 58
Berlin, 10117
Germany
+493089789521 (Phone)

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5, Bygn 26
Copenhagen, 1353
Denmark

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