love-seeking singles of Facebook's new dating service, privacy experts
say, may not be prepared for what they'll encounter: sham profiles,
expanded data gathering and a new wave of dating fraud.
- under fire for viral misinformation, fake accounts and breaches of
trust - said this week it will soon offer a new dating service designed
to help its users find love, giving the world's largest social network a
uniquely intimate vantage point on its users' romantic desires and
service will allow people older than 18 to create a dating profile -
separate from their main profile and invisible to their friends - that
it shows to potential matches based on common interests, dating
preferences, location and mutual friends, company officials said.
a button - not a swipe, as popularized by popular dating app Tinder -
people will then be able to say whether they're "interested" or would
rather "pass" on those potential partners, officials said. Matches will
be shown the other person's first name, age, current city and photo,
though users will also have the option of sharing their work, education
and other biographical information. The service will begin testing in a
watchdogs, advertising experts and industry rivals worry the service
could expose users more acutely to the worst of the Web - scams,
malicious strangers and other problems Facebook already has its hands
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," said Justin Brookman, director of
privacy and technology policy at the advocacy group Consumers Union.
"How will Facebook police that? Will they put the resources into safety?
. . . Or will their thirst for engagement trump these other concerns?"
apps and sites of the $3 billion online-dating industry - which will now
need to contend with Facebook as a rival - gather personality and
courtship data on their users for matching and marketing purposes. But
because Facebook's audience is bigger and more widespread, its
ad-targeting platform is more sophisticated and its users' profiles are
built on years of detailed information, experts worry the new dating
service could present a huge target and amplify the potential for abuse.
dating services, including Tinder, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel, and the
League, enable or require people to log in with Facebook and were able
to grow by mining Facebook's social network. But they draw a line
between their business - selling subscriptions or upgrades like Tinder's
"Super Like" - and Facebook's matchmaking service, which they say will
morph to appease the social giant's advertiser clientele.
inviting developers for years to build novel products like dating apps
or music services on top of its social platform, Facebook switched gears
and restricted developers' access to friends' data in 2014 and 2015, a
move that made it harder for many dating apps to acquire new customers.
Some of the dating apps now allege that Facebook is copying their apps,
encompassing their features into its main market-dominating powerhouse.
officials said the company wanted to bolster its platform as a
user-friendly dating destination, adding that they've been interested in
the idea for years and began building the service over the last six
months. Many people were already using Facebook for dating, officials
said, and they wanted to support that in a safe way.
officials said they are taking safety and privacy issues seriously and
moving cautiously into the dating scene. Even as they were planning for
Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to announce the new dating service on
stage Tuesday, officials said they were busy thinking about how it might
be abused. For instance, people will only be allowed to send a single
message as a conversation starter, and they won't be able to send
anything but text, as a way of preventing potentially inappropriate
photos and links.
has long fought with the fake profiles - touting photos of beautiful
women and hunky men - that scammers use to spark relationships with
users, snatch money and disappear. Some worry the dating service could
only make that "catfishing" problem worse.
Kevin Lee, the trust and safety architect of the fraud-detection startup
Sift Science and a former Facebook spam manager, said the dating service
could subject users to a host of new risks, including financial fraud.
research, Lee said, has found that about 70 percent of the victims of
these frauds are women - often older women in developed countries seen
by fraudsters as wealthy and more vulnerable due to a divorce, desire to
have children or other life event.
Cravens, a Texan who runs a Facebook page called Unfakery that helps
track down fraud accounts, said catfishing and romance scams are a huge
problem on the service - and one that the dating feature could easily
could enter this space and take it over relatively quickly, but should
they, when we're seeing as many problems as we do?" Cravens said.
"People are scamming people right now on Facebook platforms from
Nigeria, Macedonia, the Philippines and everywhere else."
with Facebook's data is older than the site itself: One of Zuckerberg's
first projects, FaceMash, scooped up pictures of female Harvard students
and let users them rate them by hotness. It was a "prank website that I
made when I was a sophomore in college," Zuckerberg explained to a
lawmaker last month.
new dating feature, Zuckerberg said this week, "is for building real
long-term relationships, not just hookups," and he said it could be
life-changing for the more than 200 million Facebook users who list
themselves as single. "If we're focused on helping people build
meaningful relationships, this is perhaps the most meaningful of all,"
company has for years collected people's relationship status ("Married,"
"It's Complicated") and used it to help fuel its vast personal-data
machine. In 2013, Facebook and Cornell University researchers pulled
data on 1.3 million users to try and predict whether couples would break
up within 60 days of Facebook-announcing their relationship. (Couples
whose mutual friends were closely connected to each other, the
researchers said, were more likely to call it quits.)
the new dating service could give Facebook an entirely new level of
visibility into its users' love lives, and privacy experts said they're
concerned users won't understand how much information they'll be handing
over. Facebook will log interactions on the dating site, keep a record
of everyone a user likes or rejects and gather other data necessary for
the service to work, officials said.
I going to get matches based on liking 'The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie'
when I was 14?" said one 22-year-old law student in California currently
using other online-dating apps. Plus, she added, "many women, including
me, have had to deal with complete strangers, usually middle-aged men
abroad, sending gross messages when you're not their friends." Having a
Facebook dating profile, she guessed, wouldn't help.
officials said they won't use dating-service data to inform ad targeting
at the outset. But marketing experts said they're skeptical that
Facebook's promise will last. The company's business model depends on
the sharing of often sensitive personal information, and dating data may
prove too valuable to ignore.
Herrick, the senior vice president of product and engineering at the
ad-analytics firm Urban Airship, said the dating service will allow
Facebook to know not just its users' current paramours, but who they're
interested in, what they like and how active they are in seeking a
data, he said, will more than make up for any information Facebook might
have surrendered after recently severing some ties to third-party data
brokers. It will allow the social network to learn "people's wants and
desires around dating directly in a much cleaner way than how they were
getting that type of data previously," he said.
level of data intimacy, he added, could have great value to marketers:
If you're an advertiser and "you know somebody's dating, they might also
be more likely to purchase new clothes or makeup or other products," he
are also questioning Facebook's priorities in launching a side service
while its challenges with privacy and fake news abound. Sasja Beslik,
the head of sustainable investing at the financial-services group Nordea
Asset Management, tweeted Wednesday, "Facebook needs 3 years to fix the
data and privacy issues, but just found time to launch a dating feature
and take on Tinder."