Garbo, Background-Checking Tool Used by Tinder, to Shut Down

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Match Group’s background-check tool, which aimed to enhance safety on Tinder, is set to shut down. The tool was provided by Garbo, a non-profit organization founded by women, which had been in collaboration with the dating app giant since 2019. However, at the close of August, this partnership will come to an end. Kathryn Kosmides, Garbo’s CEO, mentioned in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that while many tech firms view trust and safety as merely good for their image, she would prefer Garbo to maintain its integrity rather than become just another marketing tool for large corporations.

In response, a representative from Match Group told that the company has been consistently working to improve safety across its platforms. With features like “Are you Sure?” and “Does this bother you?”, they’ve introduced unique safety measures unmatched by other dating apps. Despite the end of their partnership with Garbo, Match Group is actively searching for a new partner to help with background checks for violent histories. They expressed their commitment to continue ensuring user safety and hinted at announcing a new collaboration soon.

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Kosmides revealed to the Wall Street Journal that disagreements with Match Group and challenges in getting platforms to financially support Garbo’s services were primary reasons for suspending the tool. There were internal debates within Match Group’s brands about how to best implement the tool.

According to internal documents that the WSJ had access to, Tinder’s leadership team proposed a system where users would be encouraged to run background checks on themselves. Those who did would receive a badge on their profile. The aim was to incentivize those, mainly men, who might not otherwise conduct these checks, while also emphasizing the majority of users who have clear backgrounds. Garbo, however, did not agree with this approach. Kosmides shared her concerns with the paper, emphasizing that it isn’t feasible to give users a simple “good or bad” label based on these checks.

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The spotlight turned to dating app safety back in 2019 after ProPublica ran a story highlighting the presence of registered sex offenders on dating platforms. A representative from Match Group even acknowledged that their free platforms indeed had registered sex offenders. This revelation garnered attention from lawmakers. U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Ann Kuster sent a letter in 2020 to Match Group, seeking clarity on measures to safeguard users from such individuals. By July of this year, they noted in a follow-up letter that Match Group had stopped disclosing the size of its safety and trust team.

Amid growing public and political scrutiny, Match Group saw an opportunity in Garbo, even though it was a new product in its early development phase. In 2021, the dating giant forged a $1.5 million partnership with Garbo and subsequently rolled out a consumer tool the next year. This initiative allowed Tinder users to perform two free background searches. However, some felt this gave users a deceptive sense of safety. Match Group did clarify that it wasn’t a panacea for all safety concerns.

By the summer, talks between Match Group and Garbo over funding hit a dead end. As a result, Garbo’s board convened and decided to shut down the tool. Despite this, Garbo, which has ties with smaller entities, has chosen to revert to a volunteer-based model from September 1st. They expressed a commitment to devising fresh ways to empower individuals, providing them with innovative tools to guard against gender-based violence and other online harms.

Resolute in its primary objective, Garbo further stated, “We remain dedicated to advocating for changes in the criminal justice and public record systems. We’re focused on ensuring victims are protected and those responsible are held to account.”

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