NSW Police Offer to Work With Tinder to Make Dating Apps Safer

We live in a world in which it’s super common to meet people online and form friendships and romances without really much of a second thought. But sometimes, when I think about the reality of how little we know about someone via their online persona, the ease at which we might let people in is kind of scary.

NSW Police has announced a proposal to make dating apps safer, but Match Group, the parent company of Tinder and Hinge, has allegedly not yet agreed to implement any change. Quite frankly, it seems wild this hasn’t occurred sooner.

Within their proposal, NSW Police has raised the possibility of using AI (artificial intelligence) to scan through conversations for “red flags.” NSW Police also proposed a “portal”, for police to access reports of sexual assaults made to dating apps, so they can find patterns and potentially stop repeat offenders.

Match Group have responded with a statement that they are “in conversation” with police departments such as the NSW Police, but that they haven’t agreed to proposals as of yet.

“We recognise we have an important role to play in helping prevent sexual assault and harassment in communities around the world.

“We are committed to ongoing discussions and collaboration with global partners in law enforcement and with leading sexual assault organisations like RAINN to help make our platforms and communities safer.

“While members of our safety team are in conversations with police departments and advocacy groups to identify potential collaborative efforts, Match Group and our brands have not agreed to implement the NSW Police proposal.”

The hesitancy of Match Group is slightly worrying. Although privacy is undoubtedly important to users of Tinder and Hinge, their privacy would only be at stake if there was inappropriate behaviour going on.

Detective Superintendent Stacey Maloney from NSW Police said dating apps should cooperate with police when sexual violence has occurred.

“If they hold information, that is suggestive an offence has been committed, they have a responsibility in my view to pass that on,” she told the ABC.

Do Tinder and Hinge want to protect their users from getting in trouble? Or are they afraid that if police safety measures get involved, that the popularity of their apps will go down?

The proposal by the NSW Police and statement by Match Group follow an investigation by Triple J Hack and Four Corners last year, which revealed Tinder to be inadequately responding to survivors of sexual assault, and allegedly allowing rapists to get away with their actions.

In the months following the investigation, Match Group and rival app Bumble both announced a bunch of safety changes to its apps in order to protect their users from experiencing sexual assault.

The automated systems that have been implemented to detect abuse on dating apps are successful at detecting overt abuse like threats to someone’s physical safety or extremely coarse language, but there’s a high risk that they aren’t able to identify more nuanced and subtle forms of abuse. 

Dr Rosalie Gillett, who has researched women’s safety on Tinder at the Queensland University of Technology, is not sold on the automated systems currently used by dating apps. 

“Automated systems are only as useful as the data that is used to develop them. This means that Match Group will need to consider what data it uses to train its models,” Dr. Gillett says to the ABC.

“An automated system designed to detect overt abuse will only ever be able to detect overt abuse.”

We live in an age where we are working towards understanding problematic behaviour in a more evolved way, to look and sound different depending on individuals and their circumstances. Given this, you would think that this would span out across all forms of human interaction, including online dating.

Since 2019, the most popular way to meet a spouse is online. With so many people meeting online, you would think that safety precautions would be at the forefront of these company’s minds. 

This, paired with the harsh reality that you just never know who you’re going out for a drink with until you actually get there, or even weeks later, the NSW Police are onto something. Not to mention the frightening reality of 49 women being brutally murdered in Australia last year, mostly by men and often by a past or current partner.

We have the resources, the knowledge and the technology to keep people safe in these circumstances, so why shouldn’t we use them?

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