Source: NDTV Gadgets

Tinder offers criminal background checks. This could be a big issue
Though it increases safety, the feature lacks nuances and risks biases in the criminal justice system.

Tinder to now offer criminal background checks.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Reports from this week specify a new feature debuting on today’s dating app, Tinder. The platform is all set to allow its users to accessibly run checks based on criminal backgrounds of their potential matches. In collaboration with ‘Garbo,’ this feature is a provider of background checks. Mainly, its goal is to make information on public safety easily available, aiming to make Tinder a safe space.

However, people with expertise on the subject of sexual violence and surveillance argue that it is moving towards the wrong direction. They specify how it can intensify the partiality that already exists in the criminal justice system. Tools running such checks are somewhat blunt to mask up certain fundamental nuances. This includes how most people who are accused of sexual violence do not face interaction with the system. The founder of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, Albert Fox Cahn made these remarks. Rainn, the anti-sexual violence organisation added how out of 1,000, only 310 cases are reported to the authorities.

“[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.

More importantly, this function could potentially heighten the discrimination against people of colour. These people are already victim to disproportionate conviction by the authorities. Consequently, people observed how the dating app is not being able to notice the warped image of the American criminal history. This could inadvertently give a wrong data about who’s ‘safe’ or ‘in danger.’ Garbo’s tool would essentially enable Tinder users to look for any history of criminal account by using someone’s name and details. Kathryn Kosmides, the founder of Garbo, announced the collaboration in a statement. She specified how the best way to determine whether somebody could pose a risk to a user, is to check their history in the spectrum.

However, the drawback comes forward while attempting to predict potential danger through past charges of criminal violence. For example, victims of domestic violence could be convicted by the system for using self-defence. At such a point, someone who really does not belong in the system could have the same background as one who actually does. Nicole Bedera (University of Michigan) expresses concern over the validity of this tool. The tool could portray wrongful conviction as a genuine one. This feature might also be ineffective due to the low rate of sexual violence reports filed.

Bedera further suggested how Tinder could simply use its resources towards a better cause, Such as, removing someone reportedly showcasing improper behaviour, or engaging in harassment. Similarly, Cahn also expressed concerns regarding the privacy of the app’s users. Tinder is yet to acknowledge any requests for a statement on the situation. Currently, the dating app has not specified when the feature would be available.