Facebook employees test dating app feature ahead of official release

Rival dating apps have questioned Facebook's dating feature, given the social network's recent treatment of personal data

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 06 August 2018 17:18
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Facebook is testing a dating feature for its users. But only employees of the social network can currently sign up for it.

The feature appears to be integrated into Facebook's normal social network and allows them to search out dates from among their network.

Computer scientist Jane Manchun Wong first spotted code for the dating feature, after reverse-engineering the code of Facebook's most recent version of its app.

The testing process of the new feature, known as 'dogfooding', is designed to uncover any bugs or issues before it is officially launched for all users.

"This product is for US Facebook employees who have opted-in to dogfooding Facebook's new dating product," states a screengrab shared by the computer scientist. "This product is confidential."

The dating app comes with a feature called "Conversation Starter" to help people initiate chats with potential matches.

Facebook announced the dating app earlier this year amid controversy surrounding its users' personal data. Its unveiling came less than a month after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress to answer questions about the UK data firm Cambridge Analytica harvesting personal information from 87 million Facebook users for the purpose of political profiling during the 2016 US presidential elections. The founder of the world's most popular social network notoriously once called people "dumb f****" for sharing their personal information with him.

Screen grabs of Facebook's dating feature were shared by computer scientist Jane Manchun Wong on Twitter

Mr Zuckerberg said at the time of the dating app's unveiling: "We have designed this with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning. Your friends aren't going to see your profile, and you're only going to be suggested to people who are not friends... This is going to be for building real long-term relationships – not just for hookups."

The CEO of the dating giant Match Group – which owns Tinder, OKCupid, Plenty of Fish and Match.com – said shortly after Facebook's dating app announcement that she was flattered that Facebook recognised the business potential of online dating, but added that the timing might mean people are cautious to trust the technology giant with their personal data.

"We're surprised at the timing given the amount of personal and sensitive data that comes with this territory," Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg said. "Regardless, we're going to continue to delight our users through product innovation and relentless focus on relationship success. We understand this category better than anyone."

Joey Levin, an executive at Match Group's parent company, IAC, added: "Come on in, the water's warm. Their product could be great for US/Russia relationships."

These criticisms and quips may disguise the perceived threat felt by rival dating apps. With more than 2 billion users world wide, Facebook will pose a significant challenge to other dating websites and apps if it is able to leverage the potential of its user base.

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