Facebook Dating and privacy: why users call it ‘creepy’

Today, Facebook has officially launched Facebook Dating in the U.S. after a series of tests in other territories; however, the supposedly cute and romantic intention of the company did not get warm hugs from users, especially as privacy concerns were raised after the tech giant confirmed that hundreds of millions of phone numbers that were previously linked to Facebook had been exposed in an unprotected database.

Facebook has high hopes with its in-app dating feature. The San Francisco-based tech company reveals that Americans can now create their own dating profile – one that is independent of their Facebook profile – and start matching with people around their locality. As an addition to their earlier released Facebook Dating feature, users can now start to integrate their dating profiles with their Instagram accounts.

“We’re also giving people the ability to integrate their Instagram posts directly into their Facebook Dating profile and giving people the ability to add Instagram followers to their Secret Crush lists, in addition to Facebook friends,” Facebook said in its announcement.

Concept photos for Facebook Dating and Instagram integration. Photo: Facebook Newsroom

With “Secret Crush,” Facebook meant the option where users can make a list of their secret crushes from their friends in the platform. The people added to the list will not be notified about their inclusion to someone’s secret crush list unless they did the same to the other person and them on their own Secret Crush list.

Opportunity for stalkers and unwanted DMers

Instead of getting excited with the release of Facebook Dating in the United States, many social media users have slammed the platform for creating a new feature that would funnel user data which the company can again mishandle. And they are maybe right.

One Twitter user said that the new feature is an addition to the “creepy” things that Facebook has already done. Users argued that Facebook has just opened an opportunity for stalkers and predators to prey on women in the platform.

“Okay stalkers and unwanted DMers, Facebook Dating is here with ‘Secret Crush’ feature (more appropriate way to stalk?)…” Kristin Bush (@Kristin_Bush) penned on Twitter.

Another user raised the concern of giving more data to Facebook and asked her followers if they are “comfortable” with the idea.

“Facebook moves into the dating space. Are you comfortable with giving them more of your data, especially in light of their past privacy issues?” Morvareed Salehpour (@salehportlaw) wrote on Twitter.

Facebook Dating and privacy concerns

Aside from the highly publicized Cambridge Analytica scandal which has opened the world’s eyes of the vulnerability of user data in Facebook, Salehpour may have been referring to the newer rounds of data breaches that involve Facebook as an indication how Facebook Dating and privacy is not a match.

Earlier this week, security researchers have discovered that Facebook leaked 419 million phone numbers that were previously linked by users in their Facebook accounts. The data included Facebook I.D.s and in some cases, names, genders, and countries. The discovery was made after the researchers uncovered an unprotected database containing the aforementioned user information in the wild.

Because the said database was unprotected by a password or any forms of encryption, private information of 133 million records from US-based Facebook users and 18 million U.K. users, are now available to anyone who can access the database, according to Sanyam Jain, the researcher who made the discovery.

Beyond this specific data breach, another blunder was caused by Facebook after it admitted that unlinking a user’s Facebook account from Instagram won’t work no matter how many times the “Unlink Account” button is clicked. Even if they make it seem like the two accounts have been unlinked, Facebook said that it is virtually impossible to unlink them as they are linked by default.

Now, Facebook also wants users to link their Facebook Dating profiles with their Instagram. The company even said that by the end of the year, users would also be able to link their Instagram stories to Facebook Dating. And this is potentially dangerous especially that Facebook has a reputation of accessing user information without their consent; they even admitted that they hired contractual employees to listen to voice messages in Messanger. Now apply that to messages sent through Facebook Dating and the privacy concern is amplified as messages sent through data profiles are more likely to be extremely sensitive.

Facebook may want to play cupid, but users are saying that they don’t want to be hit by that arrow.

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