Just when Facebook was set to bring Facebook Dating feature to Europe Thursday, the day before Valentine’s Day, the Irish Data Protection Commission told the social network that things were moving too quickly, and that users in the European Union should just be friends, for now.
Facebook agreed to postpone the feature’s debut in the EU after the IDPC expressed concerns over the fact that it did not receive notice of the planned rollout until Feb. 3, and that the company did not provide any additional information or documentation regarding the feature’s impact on users’ data and the decision-making process behind bringing it to Europe.
The social network falls under the IDPC’s domain due to its European headquarters being located in Dublin.
The IDPC now has the information it was looking for, but it apparently had to conduct an inspection at Facebook’s offices Monday in order to obtain it.
A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement, “It’s really important that we get the launch of Facebook Dating right, so we are taking a bit more time to make sure the product is ready for the European market. We worked carefully to create strong privacy safeguards and complete the data processing impact assessment ahead of the proposed launch in Europe, which we shared with the IDPC when it was requested.”
Alexandru Voica, the company’s communications manager for engineering in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, made similar comments in a tweet: “We shared our data processing impact assessment with IDPC for Facebook Dating in Europe, in accordance with GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation]. We’re taking more time so we can give the product the best possible launch in Europe.”
However, the IDPC indicated that the process wasn’t as smooth as Facebook made it out to be, saying in a statement, “In order to expedite the procurement of the relevant documentation, authorized officers of the DPC conducted an inspection at Facebook Ireland Ltd.’s offices in Dublin Monday, Feb. 10, and gathered documentation.”
It is also available in 19 other countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, Uruguay and Vietnam.
Facebook detailed several of the steps it is taking to ensure the privacy of Facebook Dating users when it made the feature available in the U.S.
Facebook Dating is completely opt-in, and only people who choose to use the feature will have Facebook Dating profiles.
People on Facebook have no way of knowing that their friends are using Facebook Dating, and current friends will not be suggested as matches unless the Secret Crush feature is 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.
The only information from Facebook profiles that is automatically 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. Facebook Dating users can elect to provide information that is different from what is shown on their profiles on the social network, and Facebook does not show gender identity to potential matches in order to respect people’s privacy.
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.
The IDPC said in its statement, “Facebook Ireland first contacted the DPC in relation to its intention to roll-out a new Dating feature in the EU on Monday, Feb. 3. 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 Feb. 13. Our concerns were further compounded by the fact that no information/documentation was provided to us on Feb. 3 in relation to the Data Protection Impact Assessment or the decision-making processes that were undertaken by Facebook Ireland.”
Facebook informed the IDPC about the postponement of Facebook Dating’s rollout in Europe Tuesday night.