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Facebook’s new dating app is altogether a bad idea

Facebook dating launched the first week of September.
Illustration: Phong Nguyen • The Sentry

Don’t trust a company that has lied before

Facebook, the platform whose controversies include allowing Cambridge Analytica to harvest the data of 87 million users for political purposes, to contributing to the current genocide in Myanmar, apparently thinks launching a new dating app is the best way to rehabilitate their image and regain user trust.

Facebook Dating premiered in the United States on Sept. 5 after launching in other countries last year, which Facebook notes has already resulted in engagements and marriages. For any current users aged 18 and up who would like to trust Facebook to find their ideal match, the app requires they opt in to the dating service and then create a separate dating profile to connect them with potential matches within 100 miles. 

The app will not show users dating profiles of Facebook “friends,” though there is a “Secret Crush” function for which they can add up to nine Facebook friends or Instagram followers. Facebook Dating will inform them if any of their “Secret Crushes” are crushing back, which sounds incredibly awkward if its somehow possible for “crushes” to add one another on accident. 

Facebook Dating will incorporate data directly from a user’s Facebook profile. That means, according to TechCrunch reporter Sarah Perez, a user’s profile will be tagged “enjoys hiking” not by the user explicitly stating so, but by using someone’s entire Facebook history to see how often they’ve been tagged in photos with hiking trails or mountains, for example. Users might be hoping they’ve only been tagged on hikes and not, say, the times they’ve been to gentlemen’s clubs.

The Facebook Dating app is free, which probably means “it’s free, but Facebook is just going to sell user data to advertisers or possibly political consulting firms.” Notably, the dating app launch comes just weeks after Facebook settled a suit with the Federal Trade Commission for $5 billion. For those unfamiliar, the FTC charged Facebook with eight privacy violations way back in 2012, years before the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a series of high-profile hacks.

Facebook now wanting to insert itself into the dating lives of approximately 200 million users who identity as single is laughable, given the current lack of trust in the company and recent increase in users deactivating their profiles. Beyond data breaches, Facebook has a history of causing issues like accidentally outing LGBTQ users to family and coworkers.

Privacy experts, including Sean McGrath, Editor of ProPrivacy.com, and Mark Weinstein of the social network MeWe, are already warning social media users about trusting Facebook with details of their romantic lives and sexual preferences after the company has already violated users’ trust multiple times. 

Though perhaps many users are in the mindset that Facebook already has all the personal data that they could possibly need, so why not have the company that literally knows everything about the population find everyone a partner? “Join Facebook Dating, because we already have more than enough dirt on you for blackmail anyway.”

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