Facebook’s answer to privacy concerns? A dating site

Will “the way people actually date” turn into “the way people actually stalk”?

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On Tuesday, after being dragged into a scandal involving the political number-crunching outfit Cambridge Analytica, Facebook revealed its killer PR move. Yes, it is launching a brand new dating platform within Facebook, harking back to the site’s original function of ranking women on their levels of hotness. 

Speaking to developers at the company’s annual F8 conference, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg explained that the dating service will exist as its own section of the mobile app. Users can create a separate, private profile for dating that is hidden from friends on their public Facebook page. The service will also have its own bespoke messaging platform, rather than forcing would-be Romeos to rely on Messenger or WhatsApp. This is presumably designed to prevent its users from accidentally sending texts meant for their matches to high school friends or distant relatives.

In his speech, Zuckerberg emphasised that the service will aim to function more like “the way people actually date”, linking into the community elements of Facebook. Rather than just getting stack of random users to swipe through based on location, the service will try matching you with people attending the same events as you, share similar interests, or are part of the same groups.

“This is going to be for building real, long-term relationships,” Zuckerberg pointedly, naively stated in his keynote address, “Not just hook-ups.”

I don’t need to tell you that this announcement comes off the back of a truly horrific month for Facebook’s global reputation. Even before the Cambridge Analytica news broke, Facebook was battling against an unrelenting spotlight on the proliferation of “fake news”. Those who quit the site received bordering-on-creepy messages attempting to lure users back. Although each PR nightmare has garnered a variety of responses, there is a common theme: users are starting to see Facebook as untrustworthy and a violator of privacy.

So Facebook decided that the best thing to do was to ask its users to hand over access to their humiliating pick-up lines, their sexual fetishes, and, inevitably – if other dating apps are to go by – their nudes, in the name of dragging them through the hellish process that is modern dating.

This service launch comes alongside news that Facebook just had to sack one of their own employees for allegedly bragging about being a “professional stalker” thanks to the private access he gains to user profiles as a security engineer at Facebook (the chief security officer Alex Stamos also said that the social media giant had strict policy controls, and he was investigating whether they had been abused). With 25,000 employees, the risk of one going rogue is high. The launch of Facebook Dating adds even more data to the mix. 

An official launch date for the service has not been released. In the meantime, the single cynics among us can wait with bated breath for the exciting moment when this all inevitably goes wrong.

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