These are just a few of the precautions that many women take when dating online: Those that have firearms or other weapons in their profile photographs should be avoided. Keep the dialogue as long as possible in the app. Someone who uses violent or harassing words should be reported. They are not willing to share their phone number till they have met in person. First dates should be held in a public setting and then shared with a friend – just in case.
Yes, women’s safety issues are more pressing. According to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey, women ages 18 to 34 who have used online dating sites or apps are far more likely than men their age to say that someone contacted them after they said they weren’t interested, called them an offensive name, or threatened to physically harm them after they said they weren’t interested.
Tinder is now allowing daters to add another item to their safety checklist: conducting a background check on a match. The famous dating app has collaborated with Garbo, which will alert users if their match has been arrested or convicted of a serious felony in the United States, or is on a sex offender registry. Arrests or convictions made outside of the United States will not be considered.
Tinder is touting this move as a step forward for user safety, and it might just save some daters from a potentially deadly circumstance. But it’s also a change that says, “Hey, daters,” there’s more work for you to do to keep safe on top of what you’re currently doing.
Tinder isn’t assisting users in deciphering these background checks, which may give them a false sense of security. Assume that a background check reveals no arrests or convictions. Is this a guarantee that meeting up is safe? No, it could just suggest that this person is dangerous and has yet to be apprehended or convicted.
A background check may cause undue concern. Should Tinder inform a potential match if they’ve been arrested for a crime they didn’t commit or if they’ve completed their sentence?
Tracey Breeden, the head of safety and social advocacy at Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, cited privacy concerns and legal limits on how much information the company can gather about its users when I asked why the company was adding this feature rather than being more vigilant in rooting out bad actors on its platform. “Experts told us that giving people tools and information so they can make their own decisions is best,” Breeden adds, adding that “background checks aren’t for everyone.”
According to Tinder, Garbo is designed to display results that are “relevant to the user’s safety,” excluding drug possession, loitering, and vagrancy. On Garbo, each search costs $2.50; on Tinder, users get two free searches.
Garbo acknowledges that its background checks have limitations; the corporation does not have access to all arrest records in the US. According to Garbo’s website, “background checks should be viewed as a tool in the safety tool belt not a complete solution to safety.” The firm also understands that the vast majority of violent people never have to deal with the criminal justice system.
For years, the online dating industry has struggled with how to address major safety concerns. Sexual predators frequently use dating apps to find victims. According to news reports, there are no industry standards regarding how companies respond to accusations of harm caused once daters leave the app.
Tinder has implemented machine-learning tools to improve user safety during the last two years. Before sending a potentially offending message, the software invites senders to question themselves, “Are you sure?” A popup asking “Does this bother you?” with the opportunity to report someone if they feel uncomfortable may also be sent to recipients.
Tinder claims that these tools have allowed the dating app to detect rude or abusive behavior ahead of time. It does, however, rely on people to report inappropriate behavior.
Tinder’s attempt to incorporate background checks, according to Nicole Bedera, a sociologist at the University of Michigan who examines institutions’ responses to sexual assault, is more symbolic than substantive. She claims it’s a technique for Tinder to avoid responsibility if something nasty occurs after two individuals match. Furthermore, Bedera believes that few individuals will use the new feature. Many daters have their own vetting procedure, which includes googling or looking up someone’s social media before a date to make sure they are who they claim they are.
“Dating is a pain in the neck. “It’s a lot of vetting to do to everyone,” she says of conducting a background check on potential dates before meeting up.
Bedera also pointed out that the criminal justice system has significant racial inequities, notably in how sexual and intimate partner violence is handled, which could lead to the reinforcement of negative preconceptions about people of color and an overestimation of White men’s safety.
Tinder claims it has been working on the arrangement for more than a year and that it is unrelated to “The Tinder Swindler,” the most recent user to make headlines. Shimon Hayut, posing as a diamond heir, allegedly contacted women on the app and then scammed several of them out of millions of dollars, according to the popular Netflix documentary. Romance frauds, such as the one Hayut is accused of, are very prevalent. According to the FBI, victims of romance fraud lost $1 billion in 2021.
Hayut was still on Tinder, according to the documentary’s conclusion. The dating app blacklisted him shortly after the film’s release in February. Because Hayut was arrested in Israel in 2019 for deceiving women, his arrest would not have shown up in Garbo’s background check.
I received an email from Hinge (another Match Group dating app) 20 minutes after my interaction with Bedera, informing me that one of my matches had been deleted from the dating app due to information about “potentially fraudulent behavior.”
This message came as a welcome relief to me. But I was curious as to how many individuals had flagged him or been harmed by his actions before he was removed.
Bedera believes that a larger pool of daters would be the best response to the safety issues of swiping. However, Tinder’s appeal stems from its low entrance barrier all you need is a Google account or a phone number to sign up and its global user base of millions. Tinder’s status as a “catch-all” singles club, rather than an exclusive gathering spot, is both an asset and a problem.
Finding the correct balance of safety and critical mass could be even more difficult than finding love on Tinder.