In recent years, it's become increasingly common for online dating sites to do background checks on their users. Even with sites that don't have background check policies, users often do their own research or background checks prior to connecting in person with someone they met online. Such shows of constant vigilance help keep users of these online dating platforms safe from potential predators. But with the rise of Tinder, a dating service that connects users through a free mobile app, questions of background checks in online dating are again coming to the forefront.
The furor of the discussion has been exacerbated by a recent incident where a New Zealand woman was sexually assaulted and gang raped after meeting in person with a man she found on Tinder. She met the man at a restaurant in Sydney, and then went with him to a bar where they met up with his friends. At the bar, the woman was drugged, after which she was sexually assaulted by her date and at least two of his friends.
Tinder has said they are saddened by the incident, but refused to take responsibility for what happened. Instead, Tinder said that users have to use caution when interacting with people they meet through the app, especially if in-person meetings are taking place. In other words, Tinder thinks it is completely a user's responsibility to judge whether or not meeting up with someone they met through the service is safe.
To a certain extent, Tinder is right: users have to realize that people may not always be as they seem online or through text messages. However, as Tinder grows and becomes more popular thanks to a sizable base of users, the service also has a responsibility to make sure that no harm comes to those users. This could be done with similar strategies to what dating websites like Match.com and eHarmony use. Such sites run quick name-based background checks on possible clients to make sure that they don't have histories of violence or records filled with sexual offenses.
It's true that part of the appeal of Tinder is that anyone can download the app and immediately start connecting with other "interesting people." However, it's also true that the nature of the app also makes it a helpful tool for predators searching for new victims. Tinder needs to be aware of this fact and needs to take steps to make sure those predators don't run freely on the service. It appears that the recent incident in Sydney has not convinced the company of that fact, but it should at least wake users up to the risks of meeting up with people they connect with on Tinder.