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Facebook joins online dating field

The crowded US online matchmaking industry has another member, the world’s biggest social media site, Facebook.

Known for connecting friends and family online and with more than 2 billion monthly active users, the company launched its free service “Facebook Dating” in the US in September, joining an already busy field in the $2.5 billion online dating world.

On Sept 25, one of the biggest players in that crowded field, Match.com, was accused by the US Federal Trade Commission of allegedly using fake profiles to persuade those looking for love to sign up for subscriptions on Match.com.

Match called the FTC’s accusations “outrageous” and said, “We intend to defend ourselves against these claims in court.”

Nathan Sharp, product manager for Facebook Dating, says the service is a way for singles to find “meaningful relationships through things you have in common, like interests, events and groups”.

Bringing people together just on their shared interests has only a 50-50 chance of working, according to Michelle Frankel, who owns NY City Matchmaking.

“[Facebook’s idea of matching people based on interests] could work on the one hand because there is an old adage that couples that play together stay together, however, I don’t think having similar hobbies is a recipe for success,” she told China Daily.

“Just because two people like to work out does not mean that the relationship is going to work … yes, it’s a start, commonality, familiarity, which is good, but more importantly, people should have compatible values and want the same things out of life. … If one wants a family and the other doesn’t, it’s a nonstarter. I know plenty of couples who have nothing in common as it relates to their hobbies, and they have a great marriage,” she said.

Facebook Dating first launched in Colombia last year and has rolled out in 19 other countries. In America, it will compete directly with the Match Group, which owns several dating apps, including Tinder, OkCupid and Match.com. On Sept 5, the day Facebook launched its dating site, shares of Match Group fell 4.5 percent to $81.74. Facebook shares rose 2 percent to $190.90.

Facebook, which is led by co-founder and CEO, billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, 35, says more than 200 million of its users list themselves as single, making it an ideal place for those age 18 and older to meet potential matches.

The new opt-in service can be accessed in the Facebook app, but users must sign up for a separate profile to their existing Facebook page. They must upload pictures, a name and an age. They also can add Instagram pictures directly to their profiles and will be able to add their Instagram and Facebook stories by the end of the year.

The site will then sift through people within about 60 miles, whether they have similar interests or belong to the same Facebook groups and events.

It will not automatically suggest matches but will have a “secret crush” feature in which you can tell a potential friend if you want more than a platonic friendship. Unlike other dating sites like Tinder, people will not have to match before being able to talk. They can like a profile or comment on a picture to show interest.

The social media site has stressed that it has taken privacy and security seriously to reassure users that they will be safe. Those who match can share the location of their dates with friends. They can also hide their sexual orientation online.

Some privacy campaigners say that Facebook cannot be trusted with users’ data after a series of high-profile security breaches. The company recently admitted that it had exposed 419 million user IDs and phone numbers in a glitch, which made posts public that were meant to be private.

In September 2018, another 50 million users had their information exposed. And separately, in 2018, Facebook was found to have improperly harvested data from millions with a company called Cambridge Analytica. In July, it settled a case for $5 billion with the Federal Trade Commission over mishandling user data.

“After these numerous scandals, many users have spent the last year or two trying to minimize the information they intentionally give to the company,” Jason Kelley, digital strategist on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Activism Team, said in a statement.

“Facebook Dating offers a new twist on what the company once promised —connection — in exchange for what the company values most — your data. But at this point, one would have to be pretty desperate to give a company with Facebook’s history any insight into their romantic life.”

Alex Berg tweeted sarcastically: “Yeah, I definitely want to give Facebook Dating access to my “Secret Crushes” and the last bit of personal, intimate data they haven’t already collected on me. What’s not to trust?”

Though Facebook isn’t charging for the service, the company is powered by advertisers who want access to the data that Facebook collects.

Ad revenue is generated every time a person clicks “like” or clicks an ad that has Facebook’s pixel on them. So, the preferences of daters would be of interest to advertisers hungry for information.

“Some people will absolutely not [feel comfortable giving their personal data to Facebook,”] Avi Greengart, lead consumer technology analyst for Techsponential, told China Daily. “This is a particularly delicate area, because when it comes to dating, you don’t necessarily want your friends to know, and the whole point of Facebook’s main product is about letting your friends know about everything.

Frankel, who has spent the past 10 years matchmaking, said that there is no formula to finding love.

“[Dating apps] are a great platform that now exist that allow you to meet people that you would never have had the opportunity to meet 10 years ago,” she said. “That being said, because it’s now so accessible, and there’s so much choice, a lot of people are dating with less respect. … The stories I’ve heard are people will swipe, connect, chat back and forth and then ghost (disappear).”

source :China Daily

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