Facebook unveils plans for new dating service

Facebook Inc. plans to add a dating service, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday, marking the first time the world's largest social media network has actively tried to help people form romantic relationships.

New feature raises questions in wake of privacy scandal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, Facebook's developer conference, on Tuesday in San Jose, Calif. Among the announcements unveiled by Zuckerberg is a plan for the social media platform to add a dating service. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

Facebook Inc. plans to add a dating service, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday, marking the first time the world's largest social media network has actively tried to help people form romantic relationships.

Zuckerberg told software developers at Facebook's annual F8 conference that a dating service would be a natural fit for a company that specializes in connecting people online.

"There are 200 million people on Facebook that list themselves as single, so clearly there's something to do here," Zuckerberg said.

The feature would be for finding long-term relationships, "not just hook-ups," he said. It will be optional and will launch soon, he added, without giving a specific day.

The dating service is being built with privacy in mind, so that friends will not be able to see a person's dating profile, Zuckerberg said.

But concerns about Facebook's handling of privacy have grown since the social network's admission in March that the data of millions of users was wrongly harvested by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

It has been less than a month since Zuckerberg conceded, in an appearance before U.S. lawmakers, that his company didn't take a "broad enough view" of its responsibilities — including data privacy. 

The decision to launch a dating service "sits uncomfortably in this context," according to Geoff Blaber, vice-president of the research and market analysis firm CCS Insight. 

Blaber, in an email to CBC News, said Zuckerberg's pitch seemed to oversimplify how people interact online, while ignoring "significant problems on the platform, particularly trolling and bullying."

Facebook, he said, "would have been better to wait for the dust to settle before extending the platform's reach deeper into personal relationships." 

Zuckerberg also said Facebook was building a new privacy control called "clear history" to allow users to delete browsing history.

"This feature will enable you to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, delete this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward," the company said in a separate blog post.

Blaber gave the new feature a thumbs-up. "It's a logical move, but it's remarkable," he said, "that it's taken Facebook this long to provide users control over their own data."

With files from CBC News