Facebook has suspended the rollout of its dating service in Europe planned for the eve of Valentine’s Day after officials from the Irish data regulator searched its offices.
The regulator said in a statement that it “conducted an inspection” of Facebook’s offices in Dublin earlier this week after learning on February 3 about the US company’s plans to introduce the feature in the European Union.
“We were very concerned that this was the first that we’d heard from Facebook Ireland about this new feature, considering that it was their intention to roll it out tomorrow, 13 February,” the Irish Data Protection Commission said in its statement.
The Irish regulator, which supervises Facebook because the company’s European headquarters is in Dublin, added that the company had not provided it with a data protection assessment of the dating service on February 3.
“In order to expedite the procurement of the relevant documentation, authorized officers of the DPC conducted an inspection at Facebook Ireland … and gathered documentation,” it said in the statement.
Deputy commissioner and head of communications Graham Doyle confirmed to CNN that it is the first time the commission has executed a search like this at Facebook or any of the major big tech companies since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in 2018.
The commission confirmed it has 11 open investigations into the social media company and its various subsidiaries. It is expected to make a decision soon on whether Facebook’s WhatsApp has violated European privacy laws. Companies can be fined up to 4% of annual global revenue for breaches.
Facebook Dating launched in the US in September. Any Facebook user can “opt in” to the service and create a dating profile, which can match users based off of interest, preferences and friend group, if they choose.
Facebook (FB) acknowledged that the product would be delayed for European customers.
“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 company said in a statement.
“We have worked carefully to create strong privacy safeguards, and have shared this information with the IDPC ahead of the European roll out,” it added. “In accordance with GDPR, the data processing impact assessment was completed ahead of the proposed launch, which we shared with the IDPC when it was requested.”
Donie O’Sullivan contributed reporting.