Facebook Inc. released its nascent dating feature to European users following months of delays caused by the data protection concerns of local regulators.
Facebook Dating is an opt-in service that lets members of the social network find romantic partners, though, crucially, the feature won’t match individuals with their existing friends, the company said Thursday.
“We’re launching Facebook Dating in Europe to help more people find meaningful relationships through things they have in common, like interests, events and groups,” the company said in a statement.
The dating service launched in the U.S. last year after initially being announced in 2018. Its expansion to Europe brings big-name competition to market leaders Bumble, Badoo and Match Group Inc.’s Tinder and OkCupid.
Its planned February launch in Europe was delayed when officers from the Irish Data Protection Commission intervened, saying it had only been given 10 days notice of its roll-out.
Graham Doyle, deputy commissioner at the Irish watchdog, said in an interview this week that Facebook had since provided “detailed clarifications” on the processing of personal data in the context of the dating feature. “We will continue to monitor the product as it launches across the EU this week,” he added.
The rollout takes place amid a resurgence of social-distancing rules and city-wide lockdowns across Europe, implemented to control the spread of Covid-19. However, in March, popular dating apps said they experienced a surge in users as people were forced to stay at home and turned to them for companionship.
A pandemic-friendly feature on Facebook Dating is its “Virtual Dates” section, which lets matches video chat each other. The company said privacy is preserved, with romantic activity kept out of a user’s public timeline by default.