With over 200 million single people on Facebook, Facebook Dating seems to have a built-in market – and unfettered access to information that’s as personal as it gets: your love life.
Who you like, who you don’t, what events you unlock – even what you message – is your data safe, and what exactly is Facebook doing with it?
As the Washington Post reported, there’s widespread concern that users who opt in won’t understand just how much data they’re providing:
“Facebook will log interactions on the dating site, keep a record of everyone a user likes or rejects and gather other data necessary for the service to work.”
According to Facebook officials, all that juicy dating data won’t be used for targeted advertising. But for a company whose entire business model depends on just that, how can they possibly pass up a buffet like that?
Mike Herrick, an SVP at the market analytics company Urban Airship, told the Washington Post that learning a person’s dating wants and desires would be much easier through data gathered as they use Facebook Dating.
And that kind of personal data is a potential marketing gold mine for marketing:
“If you’re an advertiser and you know somebody’s dating, they might also be more likely to purchase new clothes or makeup or other products,” Herrick said.
Will Zuckerberg et al really be able to resist the opportunity to display the latest JustFab ads to women who just agreed to a date, or suggest the Dollar Shave Club to guys?
Eva Galperin, Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director of cybersecurity, has her reservations:
Of course, targeted advertising is only the tip of the dark side’s substantial iceberg. There’s also the fact that Facebook and romance scammers have already proven to be a match made in heaven.
Unfortunately launching a romance scam is a relatively simple process:
- Steal Facebook photos
- Use them to create a fake Facebook account
- Start friending people left and right
- Get a fish on the hook
- Move the conversation over to Messenger or WhatsApp
Once the soon-to-be victim is emotionally invested in the online relationship, the money grab will follow soon after.
Now combine that with an entire social network’s worth of people who are on there specifically looking for romance?
Talk about your target rich environment.
The FBI reported a recent 70% increase in romance fraud, with more than $362 million lost in 2018 alone. And that's just from the 18,000 people who actually reported they were scam victims.
Of course, that’s only the cases the FBI knows about – many victims never come forward because of the associated shame and embarrassment.
According to the FBI, older women, often divorced or widowed, are frequent victims. One such victim who didn’t want to use her name in the interview she gave the FBI said that she’s very active on Facebook because she thought it was “safe”. She ended up losing $2 million to a scammer.
There’s speculation that many of the dating service’s new users will be 50+ – older folks that just aren’t comfortable with the technology (and vulnerability) that using an app like Tinder requires. But they’re already on Facebook, so it could be a comfortable extension. (Has the dating service piqued your curiosity? Find out how Facebook Dating works!)
“Facebook already knows a lot about you that you tell it, and it collects a lot of information about you beyond that. … Now here’s this whole other bucket of really sensitive stuff. How will Facebook police that? Will they put the resources into safety? … Or will their thirst for engagement trump these other concerns?”
Zuckerberg has responded to doubters by saying that the app was designed with “privacy and safety in mind from the beginning”, but will it be enough?
Only time will tell.