The Future

With Facebook for Dating, you’re either out or way too far in

At least it’s incredibly on-brand.
The Future

With Facebook for Dating, you’re either out or way too far in

At least it’s incredibly on-brand.

Facebook wants to help you get laid, personal privacy be damned. After telling a totally-not-creepy-at-all story about how many kids have been spawned from Facebook romances Tuesday afternoon at the F8 developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced “Facebook for Dating.” A, well, dating app for Facebook.

“This is going to be for building real, long-term relationships — not just for hookups,” joked Zuck, for some reason. “Your friends aren’t going to see your profile, and you’re only going to be suggested to people who are not your friends.”

Though the feature is optional for all Facebook users and contains some of the same basic semi-anonymizing protections as most other dating apps (e.g. first name only, no direct link to profile, a private messaging system, etc.), it still somehow manages to be a privacy nightmare. Take the “unlocking” feature, for example, basically the only aspect of Facebook Dating that wasn’t scalped from Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge.

It’s part of Facebook’s alternative to swiping, a section called “Events and Groups,” which is populated with a list of all of the Facebook events you’ve RSVPed to and the groups you’re in. Next to each one is a big padlock, that when tapped on “unlocks” to reveal a list of all of the other Facebook Dating users — none of which are your friends — who are also planning on going to the event.

Facebook product chief Chris Cox explained “unlocking” in relation to a demo profile for a fake user named Jennifer: “Unlocking the event will mean she shares her dating profile with other people who are going to the event, are using the dating service, and also have unlocked it. Then she can browse people who are there…”

While this may seem well and good as part of an official demo featuring harmless little “Jennifer,” the real world implications of such a feature are much more complex. A tool that not only tells a random strangers exactly when and where you are going to be, but tells them you’re single, looking for someone to hook-up with (or whatever), and gives them a bunch of pictures of you? It’s like a wannabe stalker’s dream come true.

The demonstration didn’t seem to indicate a way for users to pick and choose who they release their event or group information to, instead painting it as an all or nothing game. Either you explicitly reveal this info to god knows who signs up for this event, or no one at all. (It bears noting that if a user did want to reveal their information only to a specific person at an event, and that same person chose to do the same, neither of them would have to know whether each other was sharing their info with everyone or just each other; the interface could appear just the same. Just a thought.)

The argument can be made that your event information isn’t technically private — someone could get a complete list of RSVPs by combing through a public event page if they really wanted to — but the ease of such a feature in a dating context is undeniably odd. Though the release date and rollout info for Facebook Dating won’t be released until later this year, the fact that it got to this stage without seemingly anyone noting the potential user safety implications is telling. Facebook has proven time and time again that putting user privacy and choice first isn’t its strong suit, and moves like this seem to suggest its not doing much to fix that.

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