By Cody GodwinBBC News, San Francisco
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image captionSwipe right for safety
America’s most popular dating app is adding a background check feature to its platform.
Later this year, Tinder will allow users to view public records information of perspective dates using their name or mobile number.
The move comes as user safety for digital dating has come under scrutiny.
Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, plans to include the feature across all of its platforms at a later date.
“We recognise corporations can play a key role in helping remove those barriers with technology and true collaboration rooted in action,” Tracey Breeden, Match Group’s Head of Safety and Social Advocacy, said.
Besides Tinder, the group also owns PlentyOfFish, OkCupid and Hinge.
Match has partnered with Garbo, a background checking platform, to provide the paid service. The dating sites company has also invested a stake in Garbo.
The background checks company was founded by women and collects “public records and reports of violence or abuse, including arrests, convictions, restraining orders, harassment, and other violent crimes” to create its reports.
The checks will not include any drug charges or traffic violations.
In a February blog post, Garbo said: “The research continues to show that there is no link between drug possession and gender-based violence.”
User safety has become an important issue for digital dating companies amid heightened awareness about their risks.
A 2019 investigation by ProPublica found registered sex offenders on many of Match Group’s free platforms.
Following ProPublica’s investigation, 11 members of Congress sent a letter to Match Group President Shar Dubey. “Dating platforms, like those owned by Match Group, must be doing everything in their power to ensure the safety of their users. This means vigilant enforcement of terms of service that empower consumers in any online marketplace,” the February 2020 letter said.
The members urged Match to “take swift action to reduce the risk of sexual and dating violence against their users.”
Currently, if a user reports information about someone’s violent past to Tinder, or their sister apps, the offending account is removed.
Apps including Tinder and rival Bumble have also added tools like photo verification and in-app video calling to prove people are who they claim to be.
In January 2020, Tinder added a panic button feature that would store information about a date, including location data, and alert emergency services if the button was pressed.
Sarah Sawrey-Cookson, communications director at Get Safe Online, praised Match’s plan to add the background checks feature.
She told the BBC: “we’ve always emphasised the need for both first-time and experienced online daters to exercise caution and ‘check the person, not the profile’. That’s why we applaud any initiative which enables people to carry out better due diligence before they get into a relationship that could end up being very damaging.”
Cody Godwin is part of the BBC Tech team based in San Francisco. For more tech news, follow her on Twitter at @MsCodyGodwin