Following last year’s investment in the background-check nonprofit Garbo, Match Group today is rolling out Garbo-powered background checks to its flagship dating app Tinder. The offering will be made available to Tinder users through the in-app safety center, which is accessible anywhere in the app via the blue shield icon.
The in-app experience will direct users to the Garbo website where they’ll be able to fill in basic information about their match. The company says users typically only need the Match’s first name and a phone number to get started. However, if Garbo can’t locate a unique match, it won’t return any results and will instead prompt for more information, like the match’s age.
When Garbo surfaces its results, Tinder users can choose what they want to do next. If the person’s results indicate they have a history of violence, for example, the user will be encouraged to report the match to Tinder. The company told TechCrunch it removes any accounts that have been reported for violent crimes across all of Match’s dating app brands, per its existing policies.
The Garbo site will also direct users to various mental health resources, including the option for a direct chat with The Hotline (the National Domestic Violence Hotline). This hotline provides a live chat experience and resource for survivors, and can direct people to more information, offer referrals and help with safety planning. (This could be useful for online daters who don’t immediately perform a background check, but have already gotten involved with their Tinder match and now have further issues and concerns.)
The idea to offer a background check option for online daters follows a 2019 investigative report by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations, which highlighted the issue of sexual predators on Match-owned dating apps.
But the move also comes at a time when there’s been an increased focus on consumer protection in the tech industry. The U.S. has been eyeing regulating tech companies that have profited over the years by elevating engagement and growth metrics over user safety. There’s a growing concern among lawmakers and the U.S. government that tech can lead to real-world harm — and that’s been proven to be true in the case of an app that introduces unvetted strangers to one another, like Tinder or any other online dating service.
At launch, Tinder will offer two free background check searches to each user, up to 500,000 free searches total. Afterward, searches on Garbo costs $2.50 plus a per-transaction processing fee. Tinder notes all proceeds go to Garbo to fund the costs of its operations.
In addition to becoming available in Tinder, Garbo will launch to the general U.S. public today via its website, app.garbo.io. The pricing on the website is the same as what’s being offered to Tinder users.
New York-based Garbo was founded in 2018 by Kathryn Kosmides, a survivor of gender-based violence who wanted to make it easier for everyone to be able to have the ability to look up critical information about someone’s background that could indicate a history of violence. Unlike traditional background search providers, Garbo focuses on what it calls “equitable background” checks — meaning those that exclude non-violent drug possession charges, loitering, vagrancy and more minor traffic tickets, besides DUIs and vehicular manslaughter.
“We know that the biggest indicator of future abuse or violence is a history of these types of behaviors. Whether it’s online dating or the dozens of other ways we meet strangers in today’s digital age, we should know if we’re potentially putting our safety at risk,” Kosmides stated. “We want to protect those most vulnerable to experiencing harm both online and offline and this is just the first step in delivering on our mission to help proactively prevent harm in the digital age.”
Garbo believes the offenses it excludes from results are those that more disproportionally impact marginalized communities, which is why its background checks are deemed “equitable.” It also won’t return personal information — like home addresses and phone numbers — in its search results, as rivals do.
Garbo says it works with experts to help develop its strategy, including via its internal Advocacy Council. The council includes individuals from the National Center for Victims of Crime, the Center for Court Innovation and ENDTAB.
The nonprofit received a seven-figure investment from Match Group last year ahead of its public launch.
“For far too long women and traditionally marginalized groups have faced many barriers to resources and safety,” said Tracey Breeden, head of Safety and Social Advocacy at Match Group. “Garbo’s thoughtful and innovative consumer background checks will drive the industry forward while empowering people with critical information to help inform personal safety choices.”
Match Group says the feature is currently available to Tinder users in the U.S., but it aims to roll out Garbo to other Match Group U.S. brands in the months to come.