Facebook’s high-profile privacy flubs in recent months have included failure to protect its users’ phone numbers and passwords, so will those users trust the social network with information about their pursuit of love?
Facebook Dating, which was initially introduced at the social network’s F8 developers conference in May 2018, is already available in 19 countries, but country No. 20 will mark the largest test for the feature to date, as it rolled out in the U.S. Thursday.
The U.S. joins Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, Uruguay and Vietnam, with plans to expand into Europe by early 2020.
Product manager Nathan Sharp said in a Newsroom post that Facebook users 18 and older in the U.S. who have the most recent version of the social network’s application can now create Facebook Dating profiles, which are separate from their main profiles, with all Facebook Dating activity remaining within that feature and not being shared elsewhere on Facebook.
In a separate Newsroom post, vice president and chief privacy officer, public policy Erin Egan stressed that Facebook Dating is completely opt-in, and only people who choose to use the feature will have Facebook Dating profiles.
She added that people on Facebook will have no way of knowing that their friends are using Facebook Dating, and that current friends will not be suggested as matches unless the Secret Crush feature, which is described in more detail below, is being used.
Facebook Dating users can decide whether they want friends of their friends to be suggested as matches, and anyone who is already blocked on the social network will not appear in suggestions.
When users opt in to Facebook Dating and begin creating their profiles, the social network will suggest photos and information from their Facebook profiles, which can be edited or removed. Facebook Dating Profiles can also be created from scratch.
Egan said the only information from Facebook profiles that will automatically be included in Facebook Dating profiles is first name and age, and Facebook Dating users can choose whether or not they want to add other elements such as gender identity, who they are interested in and photos.
She added that Facebook Dating users can elect to provide information that is different from what is shown on their profiles on the social network, and that Facebook “chose not to show your gender identity to potential matches in order to respect people’s privacy.”
Once people are up and running, Sharp wrote in the Newsroom post that potential matches are suggested based on preferences, interests and other things people do on the social network.
He provided more details to Sarah Perez of TechCrunch, saying, “ What I can say is that, in terms of privacy, none of the people you would see or encounter would be divulging any sort of information. So, if you and Taylor, for example, had gone to the same college, but you’d never posted that on your dating profile, you may be upranked. But Taylor would never see what college you went to and you would never see what college Taylor went to.”
Once someone piques a Facebook Dating user’s interest, Sharp wrote, “Facebook Dating isn’t about swiping or having to wait for someone to like you to get a first chance at reaching out. If you are interested in someone, you can comment directly on their profile or tap on the like button to let them know. If you aren’t interested, you can pass on them.”
As mentioned earlier, the only way a Facebook friend will appear as a match on Facebook Dating is if the Secret Crush feature is used.
Facebook Dating users can choose up to nine of their Facebook friends or Instagram followers who they are interest in and, if those people have also opted in to Facebook Dating, they will receive notifications indicating that someone has a Secret Crush on them.
Sharp wrote, “If your crush adds you to their Secret Crush list, too, it’s a match. If your crush isn’t on Dating, doesn’t create a Secret Crush list or doesn’t put you on their list, then no one will know that you’ve entered their name.”
Facebook Dating users can choose to see if people within groups they belong to and events they attended or will attend match their preferences, as long as those people have opted in to Facebook Dating, as well. Should a Facebook Dating user opt to do this, they will be visible to those potential matches.
Instagram posts can be added to Facebook Dating profiles, and Sharp said Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories will soon be integrated, as well, writing, “To help you show, rather than tell, who you are, we’re bringing Stories to Dating. This format lets you be authentic in a way that a typical dating profile can’t, and it helps you get to know someone before and after you match.”
Facebook also built a safety feature into Facebook Dating, which enables people to share details about their upcoming dates and/or their live location with someone they trust via Facebook Messenger, just in case something goes awry.
Facebook Dating users can choose whether or not to use this feature, as well as who to share the information with if they do decide to use it.
Sharp wrote, “Finding a romantic partner is deeply personal, which is why we built Dating to be safe, inclusive and opt-in. Safety, security and privacy are at the forefront of this product. We worked with experts in these areas to build protections into Facebook Dating from the start, including the ability to report and block anyone; prohibiting people from sending photos, links, payments or videos in messages; and by providing easy access to safety tips. These features and others give you more control and peace of mind.”
And Egan added, “We’re committed to protecting people’s privacy within Facebook Dating so that we can create a place where people feel comfortable looking for a date and starting meaningful relationships.”