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Tinder will check the criminal records of its users

New feature to prevent sexual assaults

Tinder will check the criminal records of its users  New feature to prevent sexual assaults

The Tinder Swindler, the Netflix documentary that tells the story of Simon Leviev's scams on Tinder, must have left its mark, as the Guardian recently reported on a new initiative by the dating apps aimed at bringing the criminal record of the person the users are about to meet. Match Group, which includes a portfolio of apps such as Tinder, OkCupid and Hinge, recently announced a partnership with non-profit security firm Garbo to integrate users' criminal records into the information to be provided, a decision that was born with the aim of 'remedying' the countless incidents of sexual assault that have involved dating apps in the past, tarnishing their reputations, but which critics say will only lead to incorrect checks and discrimination.

Match Group has a long history of safety issues on its platforms: a 2019 ProPublica investigation found that several women who reported being sexually assaulted by individuals they met through dating apps received little or no response from support, only to see their harassers again on those same apps years or months later. The survey also cites a 2016 report by the UK's National Crime Agency that found an increase in online assaults from 33 to 184 over a five-year period, a number that is still relatively small if we consider the 7.8 million total users on Tinder alone. To conduct a background check, users will need to provide information such as first name, last name and phone number, while details such as age, date of birth, zodiac sign and postcode will allow Garbo to perform a more precise check at a later date. Tinder users will receive free checks, while more in-depth searches can be purchased directly from Garbo for around $2.50. Founder Kathryn Kosmides and the team are still working out the details of the new feature, including the specific crimes that will be reported to users of the app. The idea is to focus specifically on violent crimes, stalking and harassment, while crimes such as drug possession or traffic violations will not be included. 

Yet, after reviewing 150 incidents of sexual assault involving dating apps, ProPublica's own investigation found that most of the accused had spotless criminal records, concluding that even if prior background checks were conducted, they would not be effective in preventing violence. Another central problem with Match Group's new service lies in the unreliability of background checks, as convictions affect, often unfairly, mainly blacks and other ethnic minorities: Wanda Bertram, spokeswoman for the Prison Policy Initiative said that because the US does not apply laws equally, background checks on Tinder would systematically filter out groups of people who are already marginalised.