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Facebook delays European Dating launch following Irish Data Protection Commission action

David Murphy

Facebook has been forced to delay the launch of its dating feature in Europe, following an intervention by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC). In a statement from the DPC, it reveals that it was first contacted by Facebook Ireland in relation to its intention to roll-out a new dating feature in the EU on Monday 3 February.

“We were very concerned that this was the first that we’d heard from Facebook Ireland about this new feature, considering that it was their intention to roll it out tomorrow, 13 February’” the statement says. “Our concerns were further compounded by the fact that no information/documentation was provided to us on 3 February in relation to the Data Protection Impact Assessment or the decision-making processes that were undertaken by Facebook Ireland.”

To remedy the situation, authorised officers of the DPC conducted an inspection at Facebook Ireland’s offices in Dublin on Monday 10 February and gathered documentation. Following that process, Facebook Ireland informed the DPC on Tuesday evening that is had postponed the roll-out of the dating feature.

Facebook launched Facebook Dating in the US and 19 other countries, principally in S. America and the Far East, in September. To use the service, Facebook users aged 18 or over who have the most recent version of Facebook opt in to Facebook Dating and create a Dating profile, which is separate from their main Facebook profile. All Dating activity stays within Facebook Dating. They will then be suggested to other users who have opted in, based on their preferences, interests and other things they do on Facebook.

Facebook Dating allows users to match with friends of friends and/or people not in their friend circle. It won’t match users with friends, unless the user chooses to use Secret Crush and both friends add each other to their list. Users can also integrate their Instagram posts directly into their Facebook Dating profile and add Instagram followers to their Secret Crush lists, in addition to Facebook friends.

When it launched the service, Facebook was at pains to point out that it had built Dating to be safe, inclusive and opt-in, writing in a blog post: “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.”

Despite these provisions, for now, the European launch will have to wait.