The much-anticipated Facebook dating app finds itself in a tough spot. Facebook had to call off the launch of their dating service in Europe as it failed to give its lead EU data regulator enough advanced warning, including failing to demonstrate it had performed a legally required assessment of privacy risks, therefore, leaving them in hot water.
According to Ireland’s Independent.ie newspaper, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), by using their inspection and document seizure powers as mentioned in Section 130 of the country’s Data Protection Act, had sent agents to Facebook’s Dublin office seeking documentation that Facebook had failed to provide.
Facebook, at the time of the launch of their dating app in the U.S., said that it would arrive in Europe by early 2020 but failed to keep its lead EU privacy regulator informed, despite the fact that IDPC was already having multiple investigations going on into Facebook’s other owned products.
In a statement on its website, the IDPC said Facebook first contacted it about the rollout of the dating feature in Europe on February 3rd. An IDPC regulator further reported that they were very concerned as it was the first time that they had heard from Facebook Ireland about this new feature considering that it was their intention to roll it out on 13th February. Their concerns were further solidified by the fact that no information or documentation was provided to them on 3 February in relation to the Data Protection Impact Assessment [DPIA] or the decision-making processes that were undertaken by Facebook Ireland.
A Facebook spokesman commenting on this issue said that Facebook is under no legal obligation to notify the IDPC of product launches but however, as a courtesy to the Office of the Data Protection Commission who happens be their lead regulator for data protection in Europe, they chose to inform them of their proposed launch two weeks in advance. He also claimed that Facebook Ireland completed the data processing impact assessment well in advance of the European launch, which they shared with the IDPC when they asked for it.
IDPC’s statement, however, stands in direct contradiction to that of Facebook’s as it confirms that their agents visited Facebook’s Dublin office on February 10th to carry out an inspection which was meant to expedite the collection of the required documentation suggesting that Facebook spent a whole week still being unable to send them the required information.
Under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), there’s a requirement for data controllers to have privacy be in-built by default into their design as their products handle several user’s personal information. A dating app such as that of Facebook’s clearly need to comply with these rules for obvious reasons.
What’s next for Facebook dating app
This isn’t the first time that Facebook has went head to head with privacy-related concerns or regulations. Since the beginning of the year 2018, they have had a constant tussle with various privacy-related scandals and therefore this recent piece of information doesn’t really come across as shocking anymore.
Facebook had announced its plan to get into the dating domain as early as all the way back in May 2018, wanting to add a dating feature for ‘non-friends’ into its social media platforms as mentioned by them in the F8 developer conference. They later went ahead to test various launch prototypes of the product in Colombia a few months later. Since then, Facebook has been gradually adding more countries in South American and Asia. The dating app also happened to launch in the United States last autumn after it was fined $5BN by the FTC for their privacy lapses.
As of December 2019, nearly 2.5 billion people around the world are using Facebook on a monthly basis with the number constantly growing at a rapid pace. Having such an existing user base certainly puts them at a huge advantage over any other dating apps that are currently leading the market such as that of Tinder.