Zuckerberg Called Tinder Co-Founder “Irrelevant” but Still Gave Him Access to User Data

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Tinder co-founder Sean Rad “irrelevant” back in 2014, but still gave him special access to user data, according to leaked emails reported by Forbes.

Zuckerberg had considered entering the online dating industry as far back as 2014, but ultimately put the decision on hold and granted the founder of Tinder, now one of the most popular dating apps in the world, special access to user data. Facebook colleagues suggested he meet with Rad, but Zuckerberg rejected the suggestion, saying in the emails, “I don’t think he’s that relevant. He probably just wants to make sure we won’t turn off their API.”

Many dating apps use Facebook as a way to verify a new user’s identity in the sign-up process, as well as to make it easier to set up and populate their dating profiles with photos and other information they’ve already posted to Facebook and Instagram. Zuckerberg was referring to this when he mentioned API, or procedures for third-party apps to gain access to these features.

Zuckerberg also wrote in January 2014 to two Facebook executives, saying: “Tinder’s growth is especially alarming to me because their product is built completely on Facebook data, and it’s much better than anything we’ve built for recommendations using the same corpus.”

Still, Zuckerberg did allow Tinder access to the data.

The leaked communications come as a result of an ongoing lawsuit between Facebook and Six4Three, an app developer that sued the social network in 2015 for giving preferential treatment to some companies (like Tinder) to access personal user data, and denying this to other apps, essentially taking away a level and competitive playing field.

Forbes reported that a spokesperson for Facebook said that these documents “are taken out of context by someone with an agenda against Facebook.”

Facebook is currently facing an anti-trust lawsuit as well. Zuckerberg has been called before Congress on multiple occasions to defend Facebook’s policies regarding third-party partners, specifically Cambridge Analytica, who used its special access to user data to influence the 2016 U.S. election. Currently, Facebook faces scrutiny about its practice of allowing political ads to be promoted without any oversight for the truthfulness of the claims, citing these ads as free speech.

Facebook’s entry into the dating arena was highly anticipated, and shares of Tinder’s owner Match Group took a hit when it launched in September. Facebook Dating is free, and is offered to its 2.4 billion users, a significant competitive advantage.

The emails are part of almost 7,000 pages of Facebook confidential documents leaked to Duncan Campbell, an investigative journalist and forensic expert based in Ireland, according to Forbes.

When asked about the agreement, a spokeswoman for Tinder at the time said, “Tinder never received special treatment, data or access related to this dispute or its resolution.”