Facebook has officially launched its dating service in a select few locations, with other test markets coming soon.
So far, 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.
The new service, Facebook Dating, can be accessed in the Facebook app but requires users to create a separate dating-specific profile. It then links users with potential matches based on location, indicated preferences, events attended, groups and other factors. Facebook Dating will integrate with Instagram and offer a feature called Secret Crush, which allows users to compile a list of friends they have an interest in, to be matched with if the crush lists them as well.
Facebook has touted new privacy and security features within the dating service, including the ability for users to share plans and locations with select friends when going on a date and allowing users to hide dating profiles from friends of friends to avoid disclosing sensitive information like sexual orientation.
Right now Facebook users aren’t charged for the dating service, but that could change as it’s launched on a larger scale.
Facebook execs have said they’ve been thinking about the idea for years, and began building the service in late 2017. They acknowledged people are already using Facebook as a way to meet new people, so being able to “support that in a safe way” was a natural progression.
However, many are skeptical a company mired by numerous privacy scandals should be entrusted with helping users with the private journey of finding love.
What Industry Experts Are Saying About Facebook’s Dating Service
There’s no denying the launch is generating a lot of buzzes, but reactions are mixed.
Some are worried it will open up a whole new venue for catfishers and romance scammers since the new dating service might be particularly popular with people over 40 who are familiar with Facebook but may not be comfortable using traditional dating sites and apps like Match.com or Tinder.
Kevin Lee, a former Facebook spam manager turned the “trust and safety architect” of a fraud detection company, noted that this new dating service could potentially expose users to financial fraud and romance scams.
According to the FBI, romance scams are on the rise – almost 15,000 reported cases in 2016, up 2,500 from the prior year. And that’s only the reported cases, which cost the victims over 230 million dollars.
According to Lee’s research, the majority of the victims who fall for romance scams are women – often older women who are in a more vulnerable state of mind due to the end of a marriage or other stressful life situations.
Other experts are wondering how Facebook intends to keep its users’ data private, given the recent concerns Zuckerberg testified about in front of Congress.
As Justin Brookman of the Consumers Union advocacy group commented that:
“Facebook already knows a lot about you that you tell it, and it collects a lot of information about you beyond that. … Now here’s this whole other bucket of really sensitive stuff. How will Facebook police that? Will, they put the resources into safety? … Or will their thirst for engagement trump these other concerns?”
Felicia Cravens, who helps track down fake Facebook accounts via a Facebook page called “Unfakery”, acknowledged that online dating was a space it could take over fairly quickly – but should they? As she pointed out :
“People are scamming people right now on Facebook platforms from Nigeria, Macedonia, the Philippines and everywhere else.”
Privacy and fraud concerns aside, there’s also the question of who you’re actually matching with. By definition you’ve got interests in common with the people in your Facebook groups, but does that automatically mean you want to date them?
Chelsea Reynolds, an assistant professor at CSU Fullerton who studies online dating, told Market Watch that people who match as a result of being in the same professional groups may not want to date within those circles.
“For instance, I use my Facebook profile primarily to build my professional visibility. I am in groups dedicated to professors, media practitioners, and LGBTQ activists. Am I passionate about those communities? Absolutely. Am I trying to date within my professional circle? No way.”
The attraction between matches is one thing – how attractive is all that data you’re providing on your romantic likes and dislikes going to be to Facebook itself?
As Mike Herrick of Urban Airship, a market analytics company, pointed out to the Washington Post, the app is going to not only learn the identity of your current love interests, but it will also learn who else you’re interested in, what you like, and how actively you’re looking for a significant other.
It’s not hard to imagine the next step being, “Hey – she just started a relationship, maybe she wants some new clothes or beauty products.”
Of course, all these concerns are still at the speculation level. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens as the Facebook Dating Service is launched on a wider scale.