No offence to Mark Zuckerberg, but he is probably the last person I would go to if I wanted to find love. Last week, Facebook officially launched Facebook Dating in the U.S., a new product by the social media giant that would serve as a dating app and the first step the company has taken towards meddling in our love lives. The question is, do we really need Facebook to jump on the bandwagon of dating apps?
When it comes to authenticity, it is no secret that the company has a history of stealing ideas from others. Remember when Facebook tried to buy Snapchat, Snapchat refused and as a result both Facebook and Instagram (also owned by Facebook) introduced a story feature? Instagram stories are now significantly more popular than Snapchat ones, and Snapchat is losing users by the day—I don’t actually remember the last time I opened the app, yet Instagram makes over 35 percent of my weekly screen time (please don’t judge me). That said, it is no surprise that Facebook is now trying to capitalise on love and the digital hook-up culture, a market worth billions, with Tinder making $120 million in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2019 alone. But will Facebook be successful?
There are, of course, various concerns that this feature won’t really take off. Few people use Facebook the same way we did ten years ago, when the network was at its prime. Gone are the days of cringe status updates. Both Twitter and Instagram have replaced the space for us to constantly share updates of our daily lives through pictures or tweets (among gen Z and millenials at the very least. I don’t know about you, but my granddad shares his opinions on Facebook like there is no tomorrow). The social network has also been decreasing in overall popularity, as it is evident that less and less people use it, with many of us only keeping our profiles as a means of communication with family, people from high school or as a place to absorb our news intake.
In addition to this, there are already many successful and popular dating apps we already know and love, from Feeld and Hinge to Bumble and Tinder. It’s no secret, then, that Facebook is coming to this party a little late. It’s not a particularly ‘cool’ social media network, nor does it have a good reputation when it comes to data privacy. But Facebook isn’t trying to imitate the usual features of dating apps nor participate in the dating culture that these apps have created, or so it says.
Dating apps have changed dating as we know it, creating a culture of ghosting, leading on, and overall uncertainty within our relationships. The constant pursuit of something meaningful (or not) through swiping hundreds of people a day reminds us that there are more options out there, and that choosing to go on dates with strangers we virtually know nothing about is exhausting. Facebook Dating wants to change that. The company has access to information about its users’ location, jobs, education, hobbies, family members and even previous dating history, which would then make it easier to match them algorithmically according to all these factors. Essentially, making it easier to match with somebody you will have things in common with.
Users have the option to opt in or out of matching with their Facebook friend’s friends, and although it wouldn’t match them with their own Facebook friends, there is a feature titled ‘Secret Crush’. This feature allows users to select up to nine of their Facebook friends whom they have a crush on, and if it is reciprocated by them via their selection of secret crushes, Facebook notifies both parties. While it does sound sweet in its own odd and digital way, do we really want to share our crushes with Facebook? The same Facebook that sold our data to Cambridge Analytica?
While you and your secret Facebook crush might be a perfect match, data privacy and Facebook aren’t. Far from it, just last week over 419 million Facebook users’ phone numbers were leaked, as the server was not protected with a password, meaning anyone could access it. The company has been involved in so many scandals over data privacy over the past years, it would be almost gullible to trust the new dating service (after all, it does match you according to your data).
So while you might be able to find love, or whatever it is you are looking for, doing it on Facebook comes with a high cost. So be ready to hand over your personal data. Is your secret crush worth it?
It’s now official. Facebook will launch a global, digitally-native cryptocurrency in mid-2020. In a white paper published by the social-media giant earlier this week, Facebook introduces its future digital currency, Libra, as an easy-to-use replacement for cash, which it claims will grant access to financial services for people across the globe (particularly to the 1.7 billion ones who do not have a bank account). Yet, alongside promise and entrepreneurial zeal, the impending interference of the company in the world banking system evokes a great deal of doubt and concern.
You gotta give it to Facebook. Venturing to develop a monetary system that will replace cash is a massive undertaking, particularly since it involves exploring largely uncharted territory. With cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin failing to gain the trust of the masses and others like Q simply disappearing into the ether, it would take an enormous amount of creativity, financial acumen, and technological ingenuity to formulate a system that would seem appealing for investors to back and people to contemplate as legitimate. And that’s precisely what Facebook has managed to do, long before the actual launching of its product.
Libra is being developed as a blockchain-powered cryptocurrency. Unlike other digitally-native currencies, however, Libra will be fully-backed by a reserve of real assets, which will be locally regulated in each country. Each Libra issued will be backed by a currency or asset stored in the Libra Reserve in order to ensure the cryptocurrency’s stability and guarantee its intrinsic value. Facebook announced that Libra could be exchanged by anyone who has an iPhone and an Android at rates approximately ten-times lower than it costs to wire money electronically or internationally through the regular banking system. The company predicts that this will enable people in developing countries to obtain financial security and access services that currently are not available to them.
While the initial intent for Libra is to serve primarily as a money transferring tool, Facebook’s ultimate goal is to turn it into a mainstream currency, used to make every-day purchases and even serve as a loan and credit system.
Libra’s most unique characteristic, however, is the decentralisation of its governing body. Although Facebook is the one developing the currency, the company claims it has no intention to control it. To that end, it established the independent nonprofit Libra Association, presently comprised of 27 partners entrusted with monitoring the development and management of Libra. Among the members are major financial and technological corporations and service providers, including Mastercard, Visa, eBay, PayPal, Spotify, Uber, and Lyft, as well as nonprofit organizations, such as Mercy Corps.
So how does Facebook fit into this global financial ecosystem? The answer is simple: through its subsidiary—Calibra, a Switzerland-based company tasked with developing, launching, and bringing Libra to the masses. Calibra intends to do so by developing a digital wallet designated to send, receive, and use the Libra currency. Calibra will be implanted into Facebook-owed platforms such as Messenger and WhatsApp, and eventually launch a standalone Calibra app. Calibra (AKA Facebook) will, at least initially, possess one seat on the Libra Association board panel.
While Calibra will be the world’s first introduction to Libra, the company stated it will welcome any competition by another group seeking to establish a platform to exchange in Libra, and avoid any aspirations to monopolise the cryptocurrencies. In an interview for The Verge, Calibra Vice President of Product Kevin Weil stated, “Calibra can only be successful when the Libra ecosystem is successful.”
As great as this utopian virtual ecosystem appears, it also raises several red flags. One of the greatest risks about the Calibra enterprise is fraud and identity theft. And while Facebook vows to install the strictest technologies to ensure the safety of both users and the financial system as a whole, it remains to be seen whether it can keep this promise. This could particularly be an issue in countries where government-issued identification is unavailable or easy to forge.
In the U.S., numerous lawmakers and politicians have expressed grave concerns about the prospect of allowing a company notorious for data leaks and mismanagement to spearhead a global market revolution. The Senate Banking Committee has therefore announced this week that it will hold a hearing to examine Facebook’s cryptocurrency proposal on July 16.
Yet the most troubling aspect about the whole Libra/Calibra initiative is that we still don’t know how Facebook stands to gain from it. Currently, the company has only one vote on the multi-member board, and has declared in its white paper that data from Calibra will not be shared with other Facebook apps or platforms for ad-targeting purposes. It also stated that the very minimal fees Calibra will charge per-transfer will only be used to maintain the network’s security system. And so, we know there is money to be made—otherwise why would leviathans such as Visa and Mastercard be down to join the party—we just don’t know where exactly it will be coming from.
As the scandal surrounding Facebook churns, and calls to break up the company intensify, the social media network volunteers to introduce a brand-new global market, which it will supposedly not dominate, for no other purpose than to facilitate the transfer of money and welcome the world’s most underprivileged into this virtual financial oasis. In a world where Zuckerberg is, ultimately, only about Zuckerberg, one must ask: where is the catch?