Is Facebook equipped to handle far more intimate personal data after their previous privacy scandals?
Facebook Dating, which has existed in other countries since last year, went live in the US Yesterday, September 5th. This is definitely in the hopes that Facebook can compete with existing dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and OKCupid.
This announcement comes days after the company admitted to exposing more than 419m user IDs and phone numbers online, a glitch in June 2018 that made private posts of 14 million users public, and another breach in September 2018 which compromised the data of 50 million users.
That not being all, in a separate scandal, in 2018 it was revealed that the company improperly harvested the data of millions of users through a partnership with political campaign firm Cambridge Analytica.
Jason Kelley, a digital strategist, said that the Social Media giant’s phone number breach underlies a concerning inability to determine whether privacy concerns have been effectively resolved. The numbers exposed were hoarded using a tool Facebook disabled in April 2018 after the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.
“Facebook says the dating service is secure, but how do we know it won’t realize a few years from now it was not as protected as it thought?” Kelley said. “It gives us pause when things they have changed years ago are still being shown to cause problems in terms of data privacy.”
How will Facebook Dating work?
Facebook being already a part of people’s lives whether they’re looking to date or not makes things a bit unusual. However, the app is making attempts to clear most of those complications by making Dating as separate as possible from its regular app.
First of all, users must opt into the service, then create an entirely distinct profile. Reputably, the dating site does not show users their Facebook friends, and also gives people the ability to remove friends of friends from their potential matches. One also has the option of blocking specific people on Facebook from seeing their dating profile. However, users can message one another without matching first.
Facebook dating links users with potential matches based on location, indicated preferences, events attended, groups, and other factors. It will also integrate with Instagram and offer a feature called ‘Secret Crush‘, allowing users to compile a list of friends they have an interest in (crush on), to be matched with if the crush lists them as well.
On Secret Crush, you can add up to nine Facebook friends or Instagram followers to the list, and if they secretly crush you back, you’ll both get notified. Although, the feature only works if both people have set up Facebook Dating profiles; Crush *A will not get notified if you add his Instagram account to your Secret Crush list, and even then you can only do that if Crush*A is following you.
Yesterday marked the beginning of Facebook Dating’s integration with Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Users of the dating site can now add their Instagram posts directly to their profiles besides adding IG followers to their crush list. But that’s not all as Facebook says it will include the ability to add Instagram Stories to profiles by the end of the year.
All this is good progress for the company but many of us have a big question at the back of our minds, is Facebook really equipped to handle far more intimate personal data?
The concern is because of the $5 billion Federal Trade Commission fine Facebook got slapped with, a penalty they settled back in July over privacy concerns. This was by far the largest penalty ever against a tech company, not to forget there is also a new antitrust investigation ongoing.
Anyway, Facebook has praised the new privacy and security features within the dating service, this includes the ability for users to share plans and location with select friends when going on a date. Users can also hide their dating profiles from friends of friends to avoid disclosing sensitive information like sexual orientation.
Notwithstanding all this, you can’t blame the many who are skeptical. A company mired by numerous privacy scandals should not be entrusted with helping users with the private journey of finding love.
“If you’re trying to avoid dating services that have red flags, you can’t really find one that has more red flags than Facebook,” Jason Kelley, a digital strategist at online privacy nonprofit the Electronic Frontier Foundation said.
“They have a terrible track record of keeping user data safe.”
If Facebook can’t be trusted with your phone number, can it be trusted with safeguarding the name of your secret crush? Experts say no.
Where else is Facebook Dating available?
With Facebook hoping to crush Tinder and change the status of the roughly 200 million singles who use it, the company has officially launched its dating service in a select few locations, with other test markets coming soon.
Currently, Facebook Dating has been released in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, United States, Uruguay, and Vietnam.
Upcoming Facebook Dating release dates include Australia, by the end of 2019, and Europe sometime in early 2020.