Facebook's dating connection to its eponymous social networking service was finally launched in Europe, more than nine months after an earlier launch schedule derailed at the last minute over privacy concerns.
As of today European Facebook users in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal , Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the UK can opt for Facebook Dating by creating a profile at facebook.com/dating.
One of the main features of the dating product is the ability to share stories on your profile. A Secret Crush feature that lets you choose up to nine of yours Facebook Friends or Instagram followers you want to date (without them knowing unless they add you – trigger a game notification); the ability to see people with similar interests when you add your Facebook events and groups to your dating profile; and a video chat feature called Virtual Data.
Of course, if you choose to go on Facebook dating, you will embed even more of your personal information into Facebook's people profiling engine. And it was concerns about how the dating product would process information from European users, which led to regulatory interference by the company's leading data protection authority in the EU, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC).
Back in February, Facebook agreed to postpone the regional rollout of Facebook Dating after the DPC agents visited the Dublin office. Facebook had neither given him sufficient advance warning before the product launch nor adequate documentation about how it worked.
More than nine months later, the regulator appears satisfied and now understands how Facebook Dating processes people's personal data – although it also says it will oversee the EU launch.
According to DPC, Facebook made some changes to the product based on the concerns it raised (see details below).
Deputy Commissioner Graham Doyle told theinformationsuperhighway, “As you will recall, this was brought to the attention of the DPC FacebookLaunch plans Facebook Dating a few days before the scheduled start in February of this year. On to the actions the DPC had taken at the time (including an on-site inspection and a number of questions and concerns that were raised Facebook), Facebook has detailed explanations on the processing of personal data within the framework of the Dating Feature. Facebook has also provided details of changes they have made to the product to address the issues raised by the DPC. We will continue to monitor the product when it launches across the EU this week. "
"Much earlier commitment to such projects is essential in the future," he added.
Since Facebook's dating product launched in 20 countries worldwide – including the US and a number of markets in Asia and Latin America – more than 1.5 billion matches have been "created", according to the company.
In a press release about the European launch, Facebook writes that this is the case "built Dating With security and privacy first, ”he added,“ We have worked with experts in these areas to provide easy access to security tips and implement safeguards Facebook DatingThis includes the ability to report and block people, and prevent people from sending photos, links, payments, or videos in messages. "
"Facebook Dating may suggest matches for you based on your activities, preferences, and information in Dating and other Facebook products," it writes. “We can also use your activities in dating to personalize your experience, including the ads you may see on Facebook products. An exception is your religious beliefs and the genders in which you are interested. These are not used to personalize your experience with other Facebook products. "
One important privacy-related change that emerges from the DPC intervention appears to be that Facebook has committed to excluding dating users' religious and sexual orientation information from being used for ad targeting purposes.
Under EU law, this type of personal data is classified as “special category” data. A higher level of explicit consent from the user is required for consent to processing. (And Facebook probably didn't want to weigh on the mood of dating users with pop-ups asking them to consent to ads aimed at being gay or Christian, for example.)
When asked about the product changes, the DPC confirmed a number of changes related to specific category data as well as some additional clarifications.
Here is the full list of "changes and clarifications" received from Facebook:
- Changes to the user interface related to a user's choice of religious beliefs. According to the original proposal, the option "I prefer not to say" was buried in the options.
- Clarification on the use of special category data (no advertising with special category data and special category data recorded in the dating function is not used by the FB core service);
- Clarification on the processing of location data (location services must be activated for security and verification purposes for onboarding, but can then be deactivated. Dating does not automatically update the dating location of the user in their dating profile, even if the user wishes to have your location become Enabled for the broader Facebook service. The dating location does not use the user's exact location and is displayed at the city level in the user's dating profile.