Singles are giving AI their browsing history to help find love

Happy Japanese couple
The Japanese are finding love through AI (Picture: Getty)

Would you let the government decide your love life? How about artificial intelligence (AI)?

In Japan, people are doing both – and handing over their internet search history in the process.

In a move that feels distinctly dystopian, Japanese authorities are using AI to help couples meet, sparked by concerns over the nation’s falling marriage rates and falling birthrates.

Nevertheless, up and down the country authorities have combined traditional matchmaking – known as konkatsu – with AI, to help those looking for love think outside the box.

And it seems to be working.

As of March 2023, 31 of Japan’s 47 prefectures offered AI matchmaking services, according to the Children and Families Agency, with Tokyo joining them in December.

A Japanese couple in wedding kimonos
Potential couples are introduced after sharing a wealth of data (Picture: Getty)

In the Ehime Prefecture, which houses one of Japan’s oldest hot springs in the west of the country, 90 couple have met and married with the government’s help.

The local ‘marriage centre’ puts big data – social media profiles, online mentions – and the internet browsing history of the romantic hopefuls into the AI program to find a match.

Authorities say their method is so effective that the ‘Ehime system’ is attracting attention across the country.

‘The purpose of this programme is to broaden people’s horizons so they are not limited to thinking only about what academic institutions people went to or their age,’ said Hirotake Iwamaru, a counsellor at the centre.

What is Big Data?

Big Data is personal information gathered by companies to help identify patterns and gather information.

This information can be taken from sources such as social media, web visits and call logs to build up an picture of who you are.

Big Data presents a range of security and privacy concerns, especially around removing information once it is online.

Since 2018, the Saitama prefecture, which is part of the Greater Tokyo area, has used a system where singles answer more than 100 questions, and AI analyses the qualities a person is looking for in a potential partner before introducing them.

They say the use of AI had led to 139 couples getting married by November 2023, with some people saying they met a person they might have not chosen on their own.

This is echoed in the Shiga Prefecture, which launched an online marriage support centre in 2022, and uses a similar system to Saitama.

silhouette of a Japanese couple
The Japanese government is encouraging love (Picture: Getty)

They say by the end of January, 13 couples decided to get married via the support centre – six of them were with partners introduced by AI.

One person, a woman in her 30s who is engaged to a person she met through an AI service, said: ‘I had some resistance and anxiety about using the system at first, but I am glad I had the courage to register.’

Takeaki Uno, a professor at the National Institute of Informatics involved in developing Ehime Prefecture’s system, said using AI in matchmaking services broadens the range of potential partners.

‘In terms of cost-effectiveness, it is easier to use than the private sector, and it offers advantages to many people,’ he said.

Mayu Komori, chief administrator of the Shiga Prefectural Child and youth bureau, said people who sign up are serious about marriage and might feel reassured as it’s run by the prefectural government.

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