Facebook's dating app rollout in Europe is delayed after regulators raise questions about data privacy

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  • Facebook recently launched its in-app dating feature in the United States, and was scheduled to launch it in Europe the day before Valentine's Day.
  • However, Facebook Dating's European rollout has been delayed, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
  • Privacy regulators in Ireland - where Facebook's European headquarters are located - said the company didn't provide adequate documentation that Facebook Dating was adhering to the European Union's new data privacy rules, known as GDPR.
  • Irish privacy regulators also said they visited Facebook's offices in Dublin earlier this week for an "inspection" to expedite the process of the company handing over relevant documents.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Although Facebook users in the United States have had access to the app's dating feature for nearly six months, hopeful romantics in Europe are still waiting.

Facebook Dating, the company's in-app dating feature, was initially set to roll out to European users on February 13, the day before Valentine's Day. However, the rollout has since been delayed to an unknown date after privacy regulators raised concerns about Facebook Dating's compliance to new data privacy rules in the European Union.

With its launch in the US in September, Facebook Dating has been lauded as the massive tech company's answer to the booming market of online dating currently dominated by apps like Tinder, Match.com, and Bumble. Although Facebook Dating is now operating in more than 20 countries, the company is still missing out on a huge number of users across Europe.

But Facebook users in Europe will continue to wait. As first reported by The Wall Street Journal, privacy regulators have raised concerns over whether Facebook Dating is compliant with new data privacy laws instated in the European Union, known as GDPR. GDPR, which went into effect in 2018, is designed to give people more control over their personal data and regulate how much access companies have to it.

Facebook failed to tell privacy regulators about their timeline for releasing Facebook Dating until 10 days before its scheduled launch, according to a statement from the Irish Data Protection Commission, who has jurisdiction because Facebook's European headquarters are located in Dublin.

Further, Irish regulators said Facebook didn't submit the necessary documents, including data protection impact assessments, about Facebook Dating's privacy practices. In response, "several inspectors" made a visit Monday to Facebook's Dublin offices to try to obtain the proper information, the commission said.

"We were very concerned that [February 3] was the first that we'd heard from Facebook Ireland about this new feature," the Irish Data Protection Commission said. "Facebook Ireland informed us last night that they have postponed the roll-out of this feature."

Facebook is pushing back on privacy regulators' statement. A Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement that it had complied with GDPR and privacy regulators' requests.

"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," the Facebook spokesperson said. "We have worked carefully to create strong privacy safeguards, and have shared this information with the IDPC ahead of the European roll out."

It's unknown how long Facebook Dating's debut in Europe will be delayed. As younger users leave Facebook, Facebook Dating may be one way the company is trying to lure millennials back to its anchor app.

Facebook Dating includes a feature called Secret Crush, which lets you secretly pick out nine existing Facebook Friends you have a romantic interest in. The feature also extends to Instagram, taking a hold of its younger, cooler audience who frequent other dating apps and platforms.

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