In September, the world saw Facebook unveil the launch of its dating platform, aiming to help users start “meaningful relationships through things you have in common.” However, Facebook Dating, launching initially in the U.S., has already faced criticism based on its somewhat controversial use of user data in the past.
Amidst this murky background, one of the bigger areas that Facebook Dating, and other online dating sites, should be addressing seriously is how they can create an ecosystem of trust. By doing so, they will make their online dating communities safer. This is particularly important due to catfishing, which is rife amongst dating sites.
Catfishing is a scam whereby someone creates a fictitious online identity, often using someone else’s pictures and false biographical information. While MTV made a popular prime-time TV show uncovering this kind of deception in a more light-hearted manner, it can actually become a far darker cause for concern. New figures show that in the UK, online dating scams have risen by a third, with romance fraud victims losing over £50 million last year. The negative effects of this type of fraud aren’t strictly financial — 42 per cent of victims saying the experience had a significant impact on their health or well-being.
So how can Facebook Dating, and other online dating sites, make the environment a safer place so users feel comfortable putting their hearts — and personal information — on the line?
Something old, something new...
Trust has to be at the epicentre of any dating site, and this starts the second a new account is created online and that account is verified. Sadly, when dating sites say they verify users, they don’t really verify them. They rely on self-attested information, such as your name, age, city and who you are interested in meeting. This is simply not verification. New users can provide virtually any information they want as there is no fact checking behind any of these online profiles.
This is where online dating platforms need to step up their game and look to employ verification methods, and ideally, newer methods that are far more secure, deliver much higher levels of identity assurance and help create an environment of trust. The strongest way of doing this is through online identity verification when new accounts are created and face-based authentication for higher-risk activities.
The look of love
It is absolutely vital for dating sites to conduct fact checking behind the information that a user is providing. This means that customers will trust the person they are talking to online, safe in the knowledge that their account has been verified, and is not a bot. They will also know that the dating site actually knows the real-world identity of the user should a date take the wrong turn. This creates a whole ecosystem of trust and safety that runs from initially talking to a person online, right through to real-world interactions. Dating sites could even look to verify the actual picture of a customer, to minimise the risk of misleading users with false information about their physical features.
Providers of innovative identity proofing and authentication are bringing about a step change for businesses, online dating sites included. Using cutting-edge AI and video-selfie technology, the real-world identity of a user setting up an online account can now be reliably be proven.
When opening an account, the user will be asked to take a picture of a government-issued ID (i.e., a passport or driving licence) using their smartphone or webcam — this creates a reliable trust anchor and checks the ID for fraud. Then, the user will be asked to take a corroborating selfie which includes a built-in liveness check to ensure the person is physically present (and not using a picture or pre-recorded video for their selfie). It’s at this step that a digital representation of the person’s face is created, a 3D face map that can be kept on file for downstream authentication events. This provides a significantly higher bar and helps ensure that the user is truly who they claim to be . If the selfie does not match the picture on the ID, the profile will be flagged as fraudulent.
Dating sites could also use the selfie to prove that the user accessing the account is still the person who set it up in higher-risk examples. Let’s say a user wants to verify the real identity of the person they’re about to meet for a date. In this unique scenario, that person would be prompted to take another quick video-selfie, which would create a fresh 3D face map that could then be immediately compared to the original 3D face map created when the account was opened. If the face maps match, the user knows the person they’re about to meet for a date is the genuine article.
Of course, putting your heart on the line is never a risk-free proposition. But, by leveraging the power of face-based biometric verification and authentication solutions, online daters don’t need the additional worry of scammers taking advantage of them. Online dating sites, including Facebook Dating, need to take a deeper interest in the trust and safety of their users if they want to cultivate safer ecosystems. Face-based biometrics and the online dating world is clearly a match made in heaven.
Dean Nicolls, Vice President of Marketing, Jumio