Amidst multiple controversies, Facebook rolls out an attempt to find love

For a few years, Facebook has been dealing with many controversies. Also with the introduction of many new social media platforms, Facebook had lost its prominence in the hearts of people. Now, the tech giant seeks to earn prominence once again by connecting hearts.

A separate section for finding love was added to Facebook in the United States in September 2019. Now, Facebook Inc has introduced the opt-in Dating section for another 32 European countries. The rollout was scheduled for earlier in the year officially, but was delayed due to multiple regulatory concerns.

Apart from the US, the Facebook Dating feature is available now in – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. 

It is also currently available in 20 other countries – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, the United States, Uruguay, and Vietnam. 

What were these regulatory concerns?

The concerns were raised by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC). The DPC is the main regulator in the European Union and it regulates the biggest technology firms throughout the world including Facebook.

According to the DPC, the office was given the information of February 13, 2020, launch on February 3, 2020. Hence, there was not enough time for appropriate regulation. Also, no documentation regarding the data protection impact assessment or decision-making process adopted by Facebook was provided to the office.

Facebook and the Data Protection Commission has been on heads for months now. On October 20, 2020, the DPC opened two investigations against Facebook and another Facebook owned social media platform, Instagram. Both the investigations focused on the method of processing and depiction of children’s data on the platforms.

The first inquiry is bound to focus on Facebook’s legal bases for processing the personal data of children. The second inquiry will be thorough in the analysis of Instagram’s profile and account settings and determine how able the platform is when it comes to the protection of a child’s privacy.

The regulator will assess if Facebook possesses a legal basis for processing the personal data of children. Also, whether Instagram persists of an adequate protection method for the children’s data. The first inquiry will also consider if Facebook fulfills its obligations as a data controller with given regard to transparency requirements under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation.

In the second inquiry, the DPC will explore Facebook’s adherence to the requirements in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with respect to Data Protection by Design and Default (DPDD).

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In February 2019, David Stier, a data scientist wrote a blog post on Medium sighting that the contact information of children is laid out in plain sight on their profile pages on Instagram. This meant that a billion users could access the information very easily. According to the application’s policies, for maintaining a business profile the application requires the user to publicly display their contact information, and the same information is also very easily accessible for hackers as it is available in the HTML source code of web pages.

David Steir revealed that he had an analysis report of nearly 200,000 Instagram users from multiple countries. The report concluded that more than over 60 million children had the choice of switching their personal profiles to business ones. It is to be noted that there was no statement from Ireland’s DPC stating that its decision to investigate Facebook and Instagram’s privacy policies was derived from Stier’s blogpost.

Further, Facebook gave a statement to TechCrunch, stating that the researcher’s findings were ‘misconfigured’. It said that it has been directly and vividly presented in the policies that a person needs to provide their contact information in their profiles in order to switch into a business account. The company also claimed that the feature is not at all similar to exposing people’s information. It also said that after Facebook came across Steir’s report, the company had made changes to the settings according to which, a user can now choose to hide their contact information publicly even when they switch to a business account.

The concerns initiated by the regulator caused Facebook to postpone the application of the feature to several months after. Releasing them now, Kate Orseth – the product manager of Facebook Dating’s feature said in a blog post that users would be able to choose to create a dating profile on the app. They can also delete it at any time without deleting their Facebook accounts.

The Facebook Dating feature

According to the official website of Facebook, the feature will make it easy to find love with your preferences. It will help a person start meaningful relationships on the basis of common interests, events, and groups.

To use the Facebook dating feature a user needs to create their dating profiles which will be separate from their main profiles. The user needs to be 18 years or older and has an updated version of Facebook is required. The user will be then suggested to others who have also opted in the feature. The suggestions will work on the basis of similar interests, hobbies, preferences, and other things on the user’s profile.

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According to the company, the feature is not about swiping or having to wait for someone to like you. If a user is interested in someone, they are eligible to directly comment on their profile or tap on the like button to inform them of the liking. In case a person is not interested, the user can just pass through them.

Facebook Dating makes it accessible for the users to get a match in their friend list, or match to friends of friends or match with people who aren’t in their or their friends’ circle.

Although, there is a catch. The key feature of Facebook Dating is an option called a secret crush. According to this, it will be easy for a person to hide their identity in case they are liking a friend. We all know how awkward that could get sometimes.

All the information that will go out in the Facebook Dating feature will not be mentioned or accessed by the rest of your profile on Facebook.

Key Features

  • Firstly, people will be able to connect Instagram with Facebook in their dating profile. It will enable a person to share their Instagram stories on their Facebook dating profile. The stories won’t be shown on the person’s main profile, it will be only confined to Facebook Dating.
  • The Secret Crush feature will let people match with the people they already know on Facebook and Instagram. The matches were not destined to happen by default, but in a survey conducted by Facebook, it was reported that people would like to explore romantic connections in their friends and extended circles. Hence Facebook’s secret crush feature will give out an option of the users to do what they asked for. In order to activate the option, a user can select up to nine of their friends or friends of friends who they are interested in from Facebook or Instagram. If the selected people have enrolled in the Facebook Dating feature, they will get a notification saying that someone has a crush on them. In case the user is also added to their crush’s secret crush list too, it will be a match! If the person is not on Facebook Dating, doesn’t have a secret crush list, or doesn’t put you in their secret crush list then what happens on your list, stays on your list.

This will not only create a free space for people to get closer but will also boost Facebook’s prominence in the world of millennials. We are sitting tight and waiting eagerly for this feature to enter the Indian market and see the outcome of it. Are you, too?

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