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Facebook Valentine's Day blues as new dating service postponed

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Facebook Dating is an opt-in feature which allows users to create a separate dating profile to their existing Facebook account, with the site then offering recommendations based on preferences, things in common with other users of the tool, and any mutual friends. Photo: PA

Facebook Dating is an opt-in feature which allows users to create a separate dating profile to their existing Facebook account, with the site then offering recommendations based on preferences, things in common with other users of the tool, and any mutual friends. Photo: PA

PA

Facebook Dating is an opt-in feature which allows users to create a separate dating profile to their existing Facebook account, with the site then offering recommendations based on preferences, things in common with other users of the tool, and any mutual friends. Photo: PA

Facebook has been forced into an embarrassing postponement of its new dating service all across Europe - 36 hours before Valentine's Day after Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) stepped in.

The regulatory body, which oversees Facebook's operation across the EU, sent agents to the social media giant's offices in Dublin because Facebook had not informed it of the launch.

Facebook Dating is an opt-in feature which allows users to create a separate dating profile to their existing Facebook account, with the site then offering recommendations based on preferences, things in common with other users of the tool, and any mutual friends.

The service was first tested in Colombia in September 2018 before expanding to other locations including the US a year later.

The move leaves the social media body red-faced, even though the Irish Independent understands that Facebook will proceed with the European dating launch in future and that the product has been "postponed" rather than "cancelled".

A spokesman for Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon said Facebook only informed it on February 3 that the dating launch was occurring on February 13.

"We were very concerned that this was the first that we'd heard from Facebook Ireland about this new feature," he said.

"Our concerns were further compounded by the fact that no information or documentation was provided to us on February 3 in relation to the Data Protection Impact Assessment or the decision-making processes that were undertaken by Facebook Ireland.

"In order to expedite the procurement of the relevant documentation, authorised officers of the DPC conducted an inspection at Facebook Ireland's offices in Dublin on Monday last, February 10, and gathered documentation."

Yesterday, Facebook told journalists and the DPC that they were postponing the launch. "It's really important that we get the launch of Facebook Dating right, so we are taking a bit more time to make sure the product is ready for the European market," said a Facebook Ireland spokesman.

"We have worked carefully to create strong privacy safeguards and have shared this information with the [Irish] DPC ahead of the European roll-out."

The DPC is now reviewing documentation associated with the proposed dating service.

It's not the first time that Facebook has had to scrap a major initiative at the hands of Ms Dixon's office.

Last year, Facebook had to put off its plans to merge some messaging functions between Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram following the DPC's intervention.

It also had to scotch its plan to use Whatsapp data in supporting Facebook ads when Ms Dixon, as well as other European regulators, objected.

Facebook Dating has already been launched in the US, as the tech giant seeks to go head-to-head with popular online dating services such as Tinder.

Irish Independent