Pri­vacy a con­cern as Face­book launches Cana­dian dat­ing fea­ture

Toronto Sun - - LIFE -

Mark Zucker­berg is ready to play match­maker for Cana­di­ans.

His com­pany Face­book

Inc. will aim to make its so­cial me­dia plat­form’s users more than just friends with a new dat­ing fea­ture that will mark its North Amer­i­can launch in Canada on Thurs­day.

Face­book Dat­ing, which was pre­vi­ously pi­loted in Colom­bia, op­er­ates with users cre­at­ing pro­files that are sep­a­rate from their Face­book ones and kept out of sight of friends.

The com­pany will rec­om­mend matches that users aren’t al­ready friends with, but who share dat­ing pref­er­ences, in­ter­ests and if they’d like, mu­tual friends or groups and events.

The of­fer­ing will sup­port text-only con­ver­sa­tions be­tween matches in an ef­fort to min­i­mize “ca­sual en­coun­ters” by build­ing long-term re­la­tion­ships in­stead and will at­tempt to re­duce cat­fish­ing — us­ing a fake on­line iden­tity to trick prospec­tive love in­ter­ests — by im­port­ing ages and lo­ca­tions from a user’s tra­di­tional Face­book pro­file.

“We were re­ally think­ing about how in­au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences are mak­ing on­line dat­ing re­ally dif­fi­cult... and pre­vent­ing peo­ple from trust­ing on­line dat­ing and form­ing a mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion,” said Char­maine Hung, Face­book Dat­ing’s tech­ni­cal pro­gram man­ager. “We wanted to make sure you could build that trust with some­one.”

Face­book Dat­ing’s Cana­dian roll-out comes as the tech­nol­ogy gi­ant is em­broiled in pri­vacy con­cerns fol­low­ing a se­ries of data breaches. The most high-pro­file came last win­ter, when the com­pany ad­mit­ted the data of up to 50 mil­lion Face­book users was mis­used by an­a­lyt­ics firm Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica. User pri­vacy was at risk again this Septem­ber when the com­pany re­ported a ma­jor se­cu­rity breach in which 50 mil­lion ac­counts may have been ac­cessed by un­known at­tack­ers.

Some ex­perts said the dat­ing of­fer­ing will raise pri­vacy con­cerns of its own and is un­likely to as­suage wor­ries about the plat­form — even if Zucker­berg pre­vi­ously claimed “we have de­signed this with pri­vacy and safety in mind from the be­gin­ning.”

Tamir Is­rael, a lawyer at the Sa­muel­son-Glushko Cana­dian In­ter­net Pol­icy and Pub­lic In­ter­est Clinic at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa, said he had con­cerns around how sep­a­rate some­one’s Face­book and Dat­ing pro­files will truly be be­cause they’re con­tained within the same app.

“Peo­ple will think there is a de­gree of in­su­la­tion be­cause they are de­cid­ing what goes into their (Dat­ing) pro­file... but we have seen over and over again that those types of di­vides are dif­fi­cult to main­tain,” Is­rael said.

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