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Digital Shadow: Stalking You to Track, Quantify, and Reveal Your Facebook Life

Have you heard about the Digital Shadow tool, a promotion for the game Watch Dogs? The folks behind Digital Shadow allege that "you are not an individual, you are a data cluster," which is certainly scary enough to make you think a little bit more about your online privacy settings and what you're sharing on the "love to hate it" social network.

Here's how it works: Digital Shadow uses your Facebook data to guess your location, your income, and your passwords. The resulting array of collected, so-called private information is eerily accurate.

"We collectively are being scraped all day every day. Not just by Facebook, but by virtually every website we visit via our browser and the various website technologies that we have built in," Robert Siciliano, an identity theft expert with McAfee, told

He also shared a few tips users can take to minimize their digital shadow, including the following:

  • Use a personal VPN for searches, which will "completely mask everything about you."
  • Pay cash for gift cards, which can then be used to make purchases online.
  • Set up a post office box to receive any online purchases.

"These are the things you do if you really want to hide," Siciliano said. "But this is what I tell people: 'Ask yourself, what harm can come from your data?'"

Average Revenue Per User

What's the harm in sharing your data? Put simply, Facebook and its advertisers know all about you because you voluntarily provide them with personal details, but do you ever consider what that means from a financial standpoint?

Facebook released its first quarter 2014 earnings report last week. Facebook makes money off of you, the user. Every photo, every "like," and all other activity is monitored, tracked, quantified, and sold to online advertisers. The average revenue per user (ARPU) around the world increased over the past year, according to a Statista report. The following chart breaks down the evolution of the average revenue per Facebook user over the past year.

Facebook user profile

Remember: your digital footprint, or shadow, is based on social data. The controller of the social digital footprint data can determine who and why people purchase what they purchase and why they behave the way they behave. Is this the sort of data you'd willingly hand over about yourself or your children? Identity thieves hope you won't think about this, and online advertisers definitely prefer to keep you in the dark, but what do you want?

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