Irish raid forces Facebook to dump dating app launch

facebook app2Facebook has been forced to suspend today’s launch of its dating service in Europe – planned to coincide with Valentine’s Day eve – after the Irish data regulator raided its Dublin office over fears that the scheme breaches privacy laws.

The Irish Data Protection Commission said in a statement that it “conducted an inspection” of Facebook’s offices earlier this week after learning on February 3 about the social media giant’s plans to launch the feature in the EU.

It added: “We were very concerned that this was the first that we’d heard from Facebook Ireland about this new feature, considering that it was their intention to roll it out on February 13.”

The DPC, which is the EU’s top privacy cop due to the number of tech giants which are based in Ireland, said Facebook had failed to provide it with a data protection assessment of the dating service.

“In order to expedite the procurement of the relevant documentation, authorised officers of the DPC conducted an inspection at Facebook Ireland … and gathered documentation,” it added.

Deputy commissioner and head of communications Graham Doyle has confirmed that it is the first time the commission has executed a search like this at Facebook or any of the major big tech companies since the GDPR came into force in May 2018.

Facebook Dating launched in the US in September and allows users to create a dating profile, which can match users based on interests, preferences and friend group, if they choose.

In a statement, Facebook appeared to deny an issues with the service, simply claiming it was “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”.

It added: “We have worked carefully to create strong privacy safeguards and have shared this information with the IDPC ahead of the European roll out. In accordance with GDPR, the data processing impact assessment was completed ahead of the proposed launch, which we shared with the IDPC when it was requested.”

The DPC currently has 11 statutory investigations into the social media company and its subsidiaries. A decision on whether Facebook’s WhatsApp violated GDPR laws is imminent.

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