Match Group is expanding a partnership with background check service Garbo, a nonprofit female-and survivor-founded organization, bringing the free safety feature to its namesake app, Match, and the single parent dating app, Stir, after initially launching on Tinder. The new feature allows dating app users to easily access public information about arrests, convictions, and sex offender registry records. If a user finds out their would-be date has a history of violence, they can report the account for removal and block the user.
The demand for increased protections follows numerous reports over the years that highlighted the potential safety issues associated with online dating, including the risk of sexual assaults, stalking, and violence.
And while everyone should take safety precautions when dating online, it is even more necessary for people with children to weigh the risks of bringing a stranger they met online into their lives. This new function on Stir may help ease single parents’ minds on that front.
Match and Stir will start surfacing a prompt with a link to the Garbo website within the app’s chat function. If you are messaging someone and arranging to meet up with them, a box will pop up asking if you want to run a background check. The option is available in the apps’ safety centers as well.
Premium users will receive four free searches, whereas free subscribers will get two background searches. Members can then purchase search credits directly from Garbo for $3.25 to $2.50 per search plus a small processing fee of $0.75.
Tracey Breeden, head of Safety and Social Advocacy for Match Group, wrote in an announcement, “The goal is to democratize access to information by providing low-cost background checks, which historically have been difficult to access and cost-prohibitive.”
According to Match Group, more of its U.S. brands will see the background check function added, as well. The company has yet to say when and where these updates will be made.
To run a search on a potential date, users need to supply the name of the person and phone number. If Garbo is still unable to pull up any relevant public records, the user may have to provide the age, location and other details. This could be hard for some people to do as it’s difficult to ask a date for their address because you’re suspicious of them.
The dating app maker notes the person will not be notified that you’re running a background check on them.
Due to the dating app’s privacy requirements, Match cannot provide any information that you don’t already know based on the person’s profile or what they have told you personally. Garbo and Match are separate entities, so no information about searches is shared between the companies.
Match Group has been accused of overlooking screening measures for its services in the past. In 2019, a report by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations addressed the issue of sexual predators on Match-owned dating apps.
In January 2020, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, launched an investigation into some of the largest dating platforms following reports that underage users were on the apps, companies were selling or sharing personal data and free dating apps permit registered sex offenders to use them.
“Our concern about the underage use of dating apps is heightened by reports that many popular free dating apps permit registered sex offenders to use them, while the paid versions of these same apps screen out registered sex offenders. Protection from sexual predators should not be a luxury confined to paying customers,” wrote Chairman Krishnamoorthi.
In an effort to help combat issues around sexual violence, Match Group invested seven figures in 2021 ahead of Garbo’s public launch. Then earlier this year, the company introduced Garbo-powered background checks to Tinder, its flagship dating app. Match Group funds the two to four searches that are free to users, according to Tinder’s site.