A new dating site House24 is set to launch on the 27th of December 2021. A cursory look through their website, press and social media presence reveals an app much like many young startups, but with one key difference. They’re using advanced facial mapping technology to prevent scammers and protect their users.
What does this mean? Well, thanks to the pandemic, dating scams have skyrocketed. While the problem did exist and was growing in 2019 and before, various lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have kept people inside and, lonely and bored, many have signed up for online dating. This, combined with mass job losses and layoffs, created a horrible opportunity for people to scam others through dating sites.
Lots of victims have reported their experience and this has allowed experts to understand how the scammers operate and what to look out for. There are, of course, fears that many more people are too ashamed to come forward with what’s happened to them, especially because online dating scams are so emotionally taxing and personal. The information that is available, though, has been put to work by House24 to allow them to create a site with, hopefully, no scammers present.
House24’s advanced facial mapping technology takes users’ pictures and compares them with others to make sure that people aren’t creating multiple fake accounts. The company hasn’t shared much more information, which makes sense. However, this does raise some questions, such as will the advanced facial mapping technology be fooled by filters, edited photographs, extreme contouring or plastic surgery? Conversely, will identical twins be accused of being scammers – especially because other details like date of birth and surname will be the same – and be unfairly banned? Given how close we are to the site going live, it would be useful to find out a little bit more about how the facial mapping technology works.
Reviews from friends
There’s another layer of checks provided. If you match with someone on House24, you can request an anonymous review about that person from one of their friends or contacts. This seems entirely unhelpful. Friends will provide biased information and might well repeat exactly what they’re told to, and random contacts could be even worse. If we assume that these ‘contacts’ are taken from House24’s members’ phone books, we could find a completely random list of numbers. For example, would you want to read a personal review from your match’s local pizza place? Their former boss? Someone they once met in a bar? Their father’s old phone number, which yields no response? Also, there’s no reason that scammers couldn’t buy burner phones and act as their own references. Getting a review from your friends might be slightly amusing, but anything else would probably be absolutely useless.
Information about House24
The information on House24’s website is also sparse. It launches on the 27th December and it will be available in 20 different countries, but it doesn’t say which ones. The site claims that it will have options for dating, making friends and networking, but they don’t share any more information. Perhaps they are planning a big launch, but so far House24’s online presence is virtually non-existent and, aside from the information that they’ll be using facial mapping technology, there isn’t really enough to attract new members. There isn’t even anything to indicate which demographics they’ll be targeting to use their site.
Potential market influences
The combination of a supposed ‘dating’ app functioning for friends and professional connections isn’t anything especially new. Bumble is the most prominent site offering all three, but there are plenty more available. It’ll be interesting to compare how other sites have influenced House24 to branch into professional and platonic relationships and how, in turn, House24 may set the stage for other sites to use facial mapping technology to prevent scammers, if it proves effective.
Dating scams have become more prevalent over the past decade, with numbers rocketing through the pandemic by an estimated 50%. There are numerous different types and each will require new systems to identify, handle and prevent, but House24’s facial mapping technology might well pioneer a new way for dating sites to protect their users. However, the site’s imminent launch, combined with the fact that it seems to have no buzz or clear purpose, might mean that it folds before it even has a chance to use the facial mapping technology.