Facebook’s dating service is a chance to meet the catfisher, advertiser or scammer of your dreams

Facebook’s dating service is a chance to meet the catfisher, advertiser or scammer of your dreams

The love-seeking singles of Facebook’s new dating service, privacy experts say, profiles, expanded data gathering and a new wave of dating fraud.

Facebook – 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 personal lives.

The 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.

Using a button – not a swipe, as popularized by the 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 few months.

Privacy 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 full with.

“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,” 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?”

Facebook 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

The 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.

Many 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.

Some of the dating apps now allege that Facebook is copying their apps, encompassing their features into its main market-dominating powerhouse.

Facebook officials said the company wants 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 want to support that in a safe way.

After 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

Facebook 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 onstage Tuesday, officials said they were busy thinking about how it might be abused. For instance, people will be allowed to send only 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.


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