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Facebook delays launch of dating feature in Europe amid privacy concerns

The social network had planned to release the dating service in Europe before Valentine's Day.

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Facebook is trying to expand its dating service to more countries. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook users in Europe hoping to try out the social network's new dating feature ahead of Valentine's Day will have to wait. The Irish Data Protection Commission on Wednesday said Facebook delayed the European launch of its dating feature after the regulator raised privacy concerns about the service.

Facebook's delay shows that the social network could face tougher hurdles as it tries to expand its dating service to more countries. Online dating apps face their share of privacy and security issues, including fake profiles, scams and cyberstalking.

Facebook Dating, a feature within the social network's main app, is currently available in 20 countries including the US. Facebook said in September it planned to launch the service in Europe by early 2020. 

The Irish privacy regulator said Facebook expected to release the feature in Europe on Thursday, a day before Valentine's Day. But Facebook's Ireland office only informed the agency of its plans on Feb. 3, raising concerns about whether the social network complied with the European Union's data protection rules

Under the rules, companies that are starting a new project that is likely to have a "high risk" to people's personal information are required to conduct a data protection impact assessment or DPIA. As part of the assessment, companies outline what they're doing to address privacy risks. The regulator said Facebook didn't provide the agency any information or documentation about its assessment.

On Monday, the regulator inspected Facebook's Ireland office and gathered documentation.

A Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement that it shared information about the dating service's privacy safeguards with the Irish regulator. She wouldn't say when the dating feature would launch in Europe or why the Irish regulator wasn't given more advance notice. 

"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 spokeswoman said. 

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