Facebook Dating can now be accessed in the United States and 19 other countries through world’s largest social network’s mobile app. About 7 in 10 Americans use Facebook, so millions — if not tens of millions — have likely already tried the new matchmaking feature. Millions more are surely wondering if they should trust it.
The popularity of dating apps like Tinder and Bumble is obvious competition for Facebook. Almost 40% of couples in the US first met online. A recent survey found online daters more likely to broaden their horizons and date people with different backgrounds and views, especially if they are younger.
Facebook has been testing its first dedicated dating application in Columbia for almost a year. Instagram stories will be integrated into the dating profile by the end of the year, in time for the European rollout of the feature that begins in early 2020.
Who knows you better than your newsfeed?
Facebook probably knows more about you than most of your family does. So it could be just as good at making love connections as it is at keeping users refreshing their feeds.
The site’s infrastructure offers advantages other apps can’t. Users can use Facebook Messenger to share details of upcoming dates, including location data, with loved ones for safety purposes.
But anything you can share with friends can also be exploited if your account is somehow taken over. Tinder, or any dating app, is going to gather lots of private data about you. But when you connect your romantic life with a Facebook profile built over years, the privacy implications multiply.
Here are three reasons you may not want to be one of Facebook Dating’s early adopters.
It’s still Facebook
Facebook’s privacy problems remain constant, even after receiving the largest fine in the history of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for “decisions made about its users’ privacy.”
Just this month, a database containing over 419 million records linked to Facebook accounts, including phone numbers, was located online.
And it’s not only about trusting the site itself. A number of “period tracking” apps seem to be sharing information with Facebook, including information related to “cramping,” “swelling” and contraceptive use.
Don’t these sound like fun topics of discussion for your first date?
It’s easy to blame the victims of these privacy violations, but many people will assume a multi-billion dollar corporation can be trusted because the costs associated with abusing trust. Yet a $5 billion fine isn’t even a third of the profits Facebook earned in its last quarter. So no one should expect the last traces of its “move fast and break things” mentality to disappear soon.
Do you really want to be this “authentic” with strangers?
Facebook’s announcement of the official launch of the service noted, “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.”
This authenticity may help you make a connection, but it could also be an operational security (OPSEC) nightmare.
Janne Kauhanen, host of our Cyber Security Sauna podcast, revealed how he creates specific profiles that he only uses with dating apps in n #CyberSauna episode last year.
“So I set up my Tinder,” he said. “It’s based on a Gmail address I generated for this purpose. There’s a Facebook profile that’s tied to that Gmail address. There is a prepaid phone number that’s tied to both of these and that’s also used in Tinder.”
This allows Janne far more control over how much information he shares with potential mates. This sort of control is not possible if you use your real Facebook account.
A dummy Facebook account would avoid this problem. But then you miss the “authenticity” that is supposed to be one of the key advantages of this feature. And this would also be violating Facebook’s terms and conditions, which require the use of a “real name.”
Dating scams are huge
The Better Business Bureau responded to the launch of Facebook Dating by noting that “85% of catfishing scams start on Facebook.” Catfishing is the term used to describe using a fictional online persona to scam someone, often to defraud the target of money.
More than 21,000 dating scams were reported to the FTC in 2018, up from 8,500 in 2015, for a total loss of $143 million.
F-Secure has found that dating scams are one of the most popular forms of spam. And spammers only use a technique because it works.
Nothing hampers good decision making like love, or lust.
With more than 2.3 billion users, Facebook couldn’t verify the identities and intentions of all of its users, even if it tried. And no dating app can be expected to remove all the risks of dating.
The promise of using Facebook to find love may be hard to resist. However, when you consider what could go wrong, waiting to see how your friends like it may be wise.