Tinder Adding Background Checks To Help Users Stay Safe, But Will Some Be Left At Risk?

Photo: Ant Gor / Shuttershock
woman scrolling Tinder

Tinder will be launching a background check feature that will allow users to run checks on their potential dates.

Match Group, the dating app conglomerate that boasts the world’s largest portfolio of popular online dating services including Tinder, Match, Meetic, OkCupid, Hinge, PlentyOfFish, Ship and OurTime, will likely be launching the feature in the upcoming months.

The group made an undisclosed investment in Garbo, a nonprofit that allows people to run background checks using only a person's first name and phone number, or their full name.

The feature comes at a crucial time in which dating apps have become one of few ways to meet potential partners, leaving people more vulnerable than ever to the dangers associated with online dating.

Will background checks make apps like Tinder safer for everyone or will they cause more problems than they're worth?

RELATED: 18 Advanced Tinder Tips That Really Work, According To A Dating Expert

The hope if that background checks will reverse the alarming trend of increasing sexual assault cases that have been on the rise since the dawn of online dating.

As dating apps became prolific in the early 2010s, so too did reports of sexual assault.

One analysis of the data noted a 450% increase in reports of online-dating-related rape in the UK over the six years between 2009 and 2014. Of these incidences, 71% occurred during a first face-to-face meeting between the victim and perpetrator.

These figures contributed to an overall increase of 31% in rape and sexual offenses in England during that time period. Additionally, one in ten convicted sex offenders reportedly use online dating services to meet their victims.

These staggering numbers offer a window into the not-so-hidden dark side of online dating, yet people still flock to these apps in record numbers in the hope of finding love.

Garbo, the company responsible for Tinder’s background checks, hopes to eliminate some of the risk online daters face when pursuing potential matches.

The company says it collects “public records and reports of violence or abuse, including arrests, convictions, restraining orders, harassment, and other violent crimes.”

Victims also have the option to manually submit “police report(s), order(s) of protection/restraining orders, and other legal documents that report abuse, harassment, or other crimes.”

The brand is primarily focused on preventing gender-based violence. Given that it is predominately women who pay the ultimate price for the lack of safety in online dating, this added layer of protection on apps like Tinder could hopefully play a massive role in crime prevention.

That said, while Match Group has named a specific cost, they have stated that the background check feature will not be free.

Could this mean that only women who can afford to stay safe will be able to do so? The answer remain unclear.

Match has said they are working with Garbo to figure out how to price their services "so they’re accessible to most users," though the thought that some people will remain at higher risk of sexual violence because they have less money to spend on the service remains somewhat troubling.

RELATED: The Reality Of Navigating Modern Dating As A Sexual Trauma Survivor

Will background checks add another dimension to racial discrimination on dating apps?

Racial bias exists both manually and algorithmically on dating apps, with some apps allowing users to limit the people they are shown according to racial and religious preferences.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Hey You! Want more of YourTango's best articles, seriously addictive horoscopes and top expert advice? Sign up to get our free daily newsletter!

Currently, Black women and Asian men are the most discriminated against in online dating.

Background checks could potentially lead to greater exclusion of people in certain demographics, as Black and Latino people are convicted at disproportionately higher rates for the same crimes committed by white people.

This leaves them vulnerable to a wide range of discrimination in vital areas of life, including voting, employment and now even online dating.

While it is unclear exactly what type of criminal data Tinder users will be able to access, Garbo has disclosed that as part of their active stance toward equity, they will limit some of the charges they make available.

This includes drug-related offenses and traffic violations, which the company says do not meaningfully link to or predict gender-based crimes.

Should Tinder align their service directly with Garbo’s stance, they might just cover all their bases — preventing violence and sexual assault without contributing to further racial bias on the app.

RELATED: The 10 'Golden Rules' For Staying Safe When Online Dating

Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment.