Let’s be clear about this. Even if you don’t have an account on any of Meta’s services (e.g. Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp), Meta will still construct a shadow profile of you. It is stated clearly by them here:
When a user uses Contact Uploading and grants us access to their device’s address book. We will access and upload the names, phone numbers and email addresses in their address book on a daily basis to our servers, including those of both users of Facebook, Messenger and/or Instagram and other contacts who are not users or don’t have an account (i.e., Non-Users).
Yes, you may not have any accounts on any of Meta’s services. But chances are, Meta knows your name, email address and phone number. As explained by them, Meta uses this information about ‘non-users’ for these purposes:
How do we use a Non-User’s information?
Contact Uploading is an optional feature where users can choose to upload their device’s address book to Facebook, Messenger and/or Instagram. We process the names, phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses in the address book to see if any of the numbers or email addresses belong to users. If a user’s contact is also on Facebook, Messenger and/or Instagram, we can suggest this contact on Facebook as someone to send a friend request to in the Facebook user’s People You May Know or as a suggested account to follow on Instagram. Users can also invite Non-Users to join Facebook, Messenger and/or Instagram via text or email.
Contact Uploading also allows us to suggest a Non-User who joins as a user of Facebook as a friend to add for the user through People You May Know or as a suggested account to follow on Instagram.
Finally, we will also use the address books uploaded to investigate suspicious activity on the Meta Products and keep our platform safe and secure. We also conduct business intelligence and analytics using the address books uploaded to accurately count people and users of the Meta Company Products.
Meta constructs shadow profiles of their non-users to power their People You May Know (PYMK). As I explained here, their PYMK algorithm is very creepy. It allows Meta to work out the social graph of both their users and non-users, deducing distant relationships between individuals that should not be disclosed in the first place.
So, as a non-user, how do you protect yourself? It turned out, Meta has a secret tool for you to delete your shadow profile. Here is how you do it.