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Three big questions we still have about Facebook’s new dating service

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At its annual F8 developer conference on Tuesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is creating a dating service

What this means is that you’ll soon be able to create a “dating” profile separate from your Facebook profile. Facebook will then recommend matches based on dating preferences, interests, and mutual friends. You’ll also be able to discover potential matches in your events and groups. 

That’s about all we know about this dating service for now, and, needless to say, we have a lot of questions. Here are three of our biggest:

1) Will our dating data be secure?

Facebook claims that the same privacy protections that apply to Facebook will apply to its dating feature. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Facebook in the past few months, it’s that those privacy protections are, well…in need of improvement. 

It’s one thing for Cambridge Analytica to know what websites we mess around with in our free time. It’s another for political consultants (or the myriad other entities who may buy Facebook’s data) to be combing through our sexual preferences, romantic desires, or weird fetishes. 

This is especially true for LGBTQ folks — the last thing anyone needs is to have ad campaigns targeted towards their sexuality (or, god forbid, their kink) if that’s not something they’re comfortable with. 

2) How much will our friends and family know?

The nice thing about Tinder, OkCupid, and Match is that they’re disconnected from our social networks. We can use them to desperately pine for strangers’ affection without our friends, coworkers, or — even worse — our parents and relatives having any idea what we’re doing. 

With a Facebook dating feature, that line is much less clear. The blog post states that “what people do with the dating feature will not be shown to their friends.” And Facebook claims that your Facebook friends will not appear as potential matches, and that they won’t be able to see my dating profile if they search. 

But the real question is: Will our friends know that we’re on it? If, for example, a little badge were to appear on my profile to let my grandparents know I was signed up for Facebook’s dating service, or if someone I’m casually seeing’s best friend could easily scroll through said dating service to check if I’m on it, that could really change the game, and change who plays it. 

3) Who exactly is this for?

Mark Zuckerberg was very clear in his keynote: “This is going to be for building real long-term relationships, not hookups.”

It’s not surprising that Facebook is targeting more committed relationships: Hookup culture requires, almost by definition, some degree of anonymity. That sort of anonymity is difficult to achieve with a service where all users are identified by their real, full name (unlike Tinder, which uses only the first name, or OkCupid, which allows usernames) and IRL mutual friends. 

At the same time, Facebook claims this service isn’t targeting a specific demographic. I would argue that it is: It’s targeting people who are willing to, immediately, put their real selves on dating apps. 

I would never have used my Facebook profile picture as one of my Tinder photos. I want to display a better version of myself on Tinder, a version with makeup and styled hair. 

I also wouldn’t necessarily want potential Tinder matches to know my job title, high school, hometown, or parents’ names. A dating app is in the business of connecting me with strangers, and I don’t want those strangers to know everything I share with my Facebook friends — even on my public profile. 

At the end of the day, this service is probably not for the same people who use Tinder — it’s for people who want matches to know the real them, full stop, before the first date. But who…are those people?

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