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Photo: Contrastwerkstatt, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock

Should Dating App Developers Do More To Vet Users?

Dating apps don't conduct criminal background checks on users, so it's up to each user to determine if they are comfortable meeting up with someone.


The top two performing dating apps have 12.9 million users in the United States, making online dating a popular forum to meet people. It builds connections, introduces people, and potentially forms life-long matches. Unfortunately, it’s also a breeding ground for attacks for some users, with hundreds of men and women coming forward with accusations of assault, theft, and even attempted murder. As these cases continue to climb, it begs the question, are dating apps doing their part in keeping their community safe?

 

The dynamics of online dating apps

When two people match online, the intention is to meet in person eventually. After all, not many people spend hours chatting with someone they never want to meet. During these dates, users are told to always meet in a public place. Stay somewhere lit. Never get in the car. And do a background check on the person before going. That’s right. Run a check on the person you’ve been talking to before meeting up. So why is the responsibility on the user and not the site that holds them?

 

Are dating platforms enforcing their rules?

Almost every dating platform has terms and conditions outlining who can join the site. For most, convicted felons are among the list of prohibited members. Unfortunately, through blatant ignoring or missed communication, multiple members are actively on various dating apps with prior criminal charges, actively pursuing matches. It sets the tone for the potential people you’re going to meet through the platform, and it’s not a good look for the apps. Additionally, industry giant Match Group has confirmed it fails to screen members for registered sex offenders on the free products they offer. They also reveal that multiple members on these platforms are on the list.

 

Why don’t dating apps check criminal history?

With the ease of use comes a different brand of problems for industry giants, including limited information to cross-reference. That means that free versions of the dating apps don’t collect enough information about their users to verify user’s identities. Unfortunately, that also means that the onus stays with the user to ensure the people they’re meeting are safe individuals. Some platforms confirm these details in terms of service, suggesting you run your checks on potential matches to ensure user safety.

 

Should Dating Apps Do More?

When it comes to user safety, a platform has a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure the users follow the terms of service (at the very minimum). Having registered sex offenders on the site isn’t just breaking the rules; it’s putting the lives of every potential match at risk. Implementing a mandatory screening process against the registered sex offender list is an essential first step all dating platforms should be taking. Paid membership sites have all profiles cross-referenced against the list – free platforms need the same service standard.

 

What information should be included in mandatory screening?

Verifying personal information needs to be of top concern for memberships on dating apps. Confirming the individual’s first and last name should be a fundamental step to a safe dating community. From there, all online dating apps should perform a background check on the member. The details can include criminal activity, sex offender status, and any financial indications that would raise a concern. That’s not to say that all information should be shared in the public eye; instead, it should prevent users from accessing the platform when they’re convicted of dangerous or sex-based crimes.

If a member is on the platform and holds a criminal record, users should set parameters around these conditions. You should be able to opt out of those with a criminal record, removing them from the search functionality. This enables individuals to make informed decisions on their matches online. If you’re comfortable chatting with someone with a criminal record, the onus falls on the member to investigate further and assess the risk. When the site leaves people in the dark, they remove a vital part of the decision-making process.

 

What limitations should be considered?

Before matching with other users, set your boundaries on common issues. Some members may have a blanket preference for background check results. Others are willing to bend the rules, depending on the connection with a specific person. Ask yourself what you’re ready to accept and what is an instant deal-breaker before you start to make things easier to narrow down.

 

Should dating apps deploy private background checks?

Knowing that no free dating app scans its members for criminal activity, all members must run a background check on the potential match before the meeting. Make sure to get the first and last name of your potential partner, along with identifying details before the date. License plate number, car make and model, and a phone number can all keep you safe when meeting someone. Most background checks will include social media accounts with other information; browse the profiles to ensure the person is single (and not hiding a relationship). Anyone you want to meet in person should have a background check performed to ensure your safety while dating.

 

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Photo: Contrastwerkstatt, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock
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