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Mark Zuckerberg awkwardly dodges question about shadow profiles from European Parliament

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Shadow what?
Shadow what?

Image: JOHN THYS /Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg really doesn’t want to talk about shadow profiles

On Tuesday, May 22, the Facebook CEO did his best to avoid directly answering questions from the European Parliament covering data privacy, Cambridge Analytica, and whether or not his company is a monopoly. One topic, in particular, elicited a rather artless dodge: that of the so-called shadow profile. 

“Um, is there anything else here that,” he starts to ask toward the end of the meeting before being interrupted by Syed Salah Kamall MEP of Britain. 

“Shadow profiles,” Kamall interjects. “Shadow profiles.”

Zuckerberg awkwardly looks at his desk and laughs, before looking up to provide quite the non-answer. Here it is, exactly as he said it:

“Um, sure, so to to to to your question the, for um, for the content that, uh, that websites and apps sent us, um, we think it’s very important that people have the ability to clear this ah, so, ah, we just launched, or or, just announced that we’re building and will soon launch this ‘Clear History’ feature that allows you to clear all basic browsing history data.”

This, of course, doesn’t really have that much to do with shadow profiles. Originally, the term referred to the data Facebook had on specific users that they had not knowingly or willingly submitted to the site. Now, colloquially, it typically refers to the data Facebook collects on non-users of the platform. 

Zuckerberg didn’t address either of those issues in response to Kamall, however, and instead mentioned “security data” and scraping public data from the company. The latter of which, of course, is a real concern — although again it has nothing to do with shadow profiles. 

Kamall didn’t let him get away with that answer, though.

“But if you’re not a Facebook user,” he asked, “how do you stop that data be transferred.”

“Um, on the security side, we think it’s important to protect people in our community,” Zuckerberg nervously responded. “Were there any other themes that we want to get through?”

Yes, Mark, there are. Perhaps a good place to start would be the theme of you dodging questions. 

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