Jan 3, 2023
Tinder now allows users to use a criminal background check tool via the dating app’s Safety Center, according to reports from various media outlets. In an effort to help people “surface red flags,” per a CNN story, Tinder’s parent company – Match Group – has partnered with Garbo, a nonprofit background check provider with a specific focus on gender-based violence awareness and prevention.
The effort was announced last week and became available to Tinder users as of March 14. In addition to the Tinder rollout, CNN confirmed that Garbo is removing the company’s waitlist and will allow anyone – even non-Tinder users – to conduct background check searches for a small fee.
Marketplace.org reported that the Tinder criminal background check service is available to users for free on the first two occasions. Each additional search will reportedly cost $2.50.
Tinder users are able to search criminal records of potential dates, including public records of arrests, convictions, and sex offender registries across counties in the United States where accessible. The Garbo background check tool screens for violent criminal offenses, while leaving out drug charges or traffic violations.
Garbo was founded by Kathryn Kosmides, a survivor of gender-based violence. The company is dubbed a “new kind of background check for the digital age,” according to CNN.
As CNN reported, to conduct a Garbo background check via Tinder, the tool requests specific information about a potential online dating connection as a date “in real life” nears.
Some of the information used in a Tinder/Garbo background check may include:
The goal of the criminal background check tool now available via Tinder is:
“…to arm online daters with information that can make them feel safer about their dating choices,” according to CNN.
Kosmides told CNN that Tinder users who seek out the Garbo background check service will likely fall into one of two categories:
“They’re either a cautious person and searching everyone, or they have a gut feeling about someone,” she said to CNN, adding that she hopes to eventually expand the platform over time to incorporate other relevant types of records.
But although the Tinder/Garbo criminal background check partnership may seem like a positive step that can help increase safety for countless online dating enthusiasts, some view the new tool as “an example of paying lip service to the issue while shifting the burden to its most vulnerable users,” according to CNN. Furthermore, as CNN noted, the service could raise new concerns about how people will use it and what they may take away from it.
“We know that sexual violence is so rarely reported and we know that convictions are so incredibly rare even when it is reported,” Nicole Bedera, a sociologist who has researched sexual violence and who previously worked as a victim advocate, told CNN. “You’re going to be missing a lot of really dangerous people through using criminal records and background checks as a proxy for safety. It can create this false sense of safety when it shouldn’t be there.”
A report from The Guardian – “Tinder now offers criminal background checks, but there’s a big problem” – echoes Bedera’s sentiment, noting that while the Garbo tool is ostensibly intended to increase safety, it actually “lacks nuance and risks amplifying biases in the criminal justice system.”
Citing an important statistic offered by Dordulian Law Group partner organization – the anti-sexual violence nonprofit RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) – The Guardian notes that only 310 of 1,000 sexual assaults are ever reported to police. Accordingly, as Albert Fox Cahn, the founder of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told The Guardian, background checks can be a blunt tool that “glosses over fundamental nuances,” including the fact that most people accused of sexual violence do not interact with the criminal justice system.
“[The tool] assumes that criminal justice involvement is a relevant risk factor in finding who will pose a danger in the future, but the vast majority of abusers have no criminal record,” said Cahn.
However, as a 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center confirms, the majority of women already did not consider online dating apps safe, even before the Garbo background check service was made available.
Some important statistics from the Pew online dating survey include:
Kosmides, Garbo’s founder, acknowledged to CNN that the background check tool is far from being a total solution. The database currently has more than 1 billion records of violent and harmful behavior, but the Garbo website includes a significant caveat that is important for all Tinder users to understand:
“Most violent individuals never interact with the criminal justice system.”
Garbo’s website also features articles and a podcast intended for people to navigate relationships with support. Moreover, Garbo has partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline so people can access a 24/7 chat through the website.
A December 2019 ProPublica report exposed how Tinder and other apps allowed known sex offenders to use their online dating services.
Citing one specific example, ProPublica detailed a male user on PlentyofFish.com who happened to be a three-time convicted rapist designated by the state of Massachusetts as a dangerous sex offender. Despite his criminal history, the 54-year-old man, Mark Papamechail, was able to use the dating app on repeated occasions. Per the ProPublica story, at least two women reported to police that Papamechail had raped them after meeting via the PlentyofFish app.
While Match Group, the parent corporation of PlentyofFish and Tinder, agreed to screen for registered sex offenders in 2011, it didn’t extend that policy across all platforms. In fact, Match didn’t initiate a full screening process until a user, Carole Markin, hit the company with a high-profile civil lawsuit. After having been connected with a six-time convicted rapist who, she told police, had raped her on their second date, Markin sued Match in an effort to improve safety practices, according to ProPublica.
After reaching a settlement with Markin, Match’s lawyers declared the site was “checking subscribers against state and national sex offender registries.”
As Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) founder and former sex crimes prosecutor, Sam Dordulian, notes, although the Tinder/Garbo background check tool certainly isn’t perfect, online dating apps have a duty to screen for and identify registered sex offenders.
“It’s true that most violent offenders do not interact with the criminal justice system, but that doesn’t mean these companies can’t or shouldn’t keep confirmed predators from using their dating services. Identifying registered sex offenders and protecting unsuspecting users from such individuals will undoubtedly improve safety for many,” Dordulian says.
Tinder or other online dating app sexual assault civil lawsuits may be brought in an effort to recover financial compensation for various types of losses. Depending on the circumstances of your Tinder or online dating app sex crime, compensatory damages may be pursued and recovered through a civil claim.
Examples of some common damages that may be secured through a California Tinder sexual assault or abuse civil claim include:
For adult sexual assault survivors, the California statute of limitations on sex crimes allows you to file a civil claim up to 10 years after an incident. Moreover, the statute of limitations allows for a three-year window in civil claims where sexual assaults lead to the discovery of a psychological injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
DLG is a leading California-based sexual assault firm representing survivors across the United States. DLG offers a unique type of legal representation which includes a four-tiered team of professionals known as the SAJE Team.
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Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.
Some of our recent sexual assault civil lawsuit victories include:
For a free and confidential consultation regarding your Tinder or online dating app sexual assault civil claim, contact a member of DLG’s SAJE Team today at 818-322-4056. Our sex crime attorneys have helped victims recover more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts while maintaining a 98% success record.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.