When I was in law enforcement, I spent more time responding to gender-based violence calls than anything else. Intimate partner violence calls are one of the most common and most dangerous calls responded to by first responders.
As a queer woman, it was particularly devastating to see how women, people of color, and traditionally marginalized communities were disproportionately impacted by this violence and didn’t always get the response they deserved. I knew that creating safe and respectful spaces for these communities would be at the core of not just my purpose and not venture, but my career.
At Match Group, where our technology introduces people for the purpose of relationships, our investment and partnership with Garbo is about just that—doing more to help keep people safe. In March 2022, we announced a first-of-its-kind partnership on Tinder for users in the US. We are now expanding Garbo to more users in the U.S. on Match and Stir, with more US brands to follow.
As a company, we have chosen to take this step but it’s important to understand what this partnership does, and the safeguards it includes to address concerns around access, equity, and privacy. Match Group worked with experts who recommended empowering users with tools, education and information to help give them agency and control over their decisions and who they choose to connect with on platforms.
Progress in the fight against intimate partner and sexual violence has been stubbornly and troublingly slow, despite increased awareness and the incredible work of experts such as the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), the National Domestic Hotline, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) and many more global thought leaders across the world. At a basic level, this stems from serial abusers exploiting low reporting of incidents and evading a conviction that identifies them as an offender–using a broken system to move around, escape accountability and victimize many others.
Who we are working with – Garbo, a female-and survivor-founded organization, provides already public historical records of arrests, convictions, and sex offender registry information, while focusing on crimes such as rape, assault, burglary, arson, financial fraud, or other crimes that could have a potential impact on someone’s safety. Garbo is disrupting a system and is completely different from traditional people search companies that often provide invasive information, information that actually can function as “stalking-as-a-service.”
The goal is to democratize access to information by providing low-cost background checks, which historically have been difficult to access and cost-prohibitive.
Protecting marginalized communities – Garbo also takes a thoughtful and informed approach, working closely with social justice and racial equity experts—and has an advisory council that includes individuals from the National Center for Victims of Crime, The Center for Court Innovations, ENDTAB and others to help mitigate harm to communities impacted by the criminal justice system. Bias and systemic racism mean people of color are more likely to have either an arrest or a criminal record, something most background check providers do not account for. Garbo’s goal was to account for the fact that the criminal justice system touches communities of color more often than not and more harshly than it should. This is why Garbo excludes drug possession charges, homelessness, and non-criminal traffic violations such as speeding, which have a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups.
Data and Privacy – Garbo allows users to access a background check with the limited information someone has before a first meeting that they can gather through someone’s profile and by talking with them. All the information used is either voluntarily disclosed by someone on their profile or through conversation with their matches and Match Group will not ask for or store any users’ background check data, nor will it provide Garbo any data. But more importantly, Garbo does not provide detailed personal information, like someone’s home address, in the results—a big differentiator from traditional background checks. It’s important to note that a person will not be notified or alerted that a background screening has been conducted on them.
We believe people have the right to access public records about someone who they might want to meet, particularly information that can impact safety. Information that can both help protect people and serve as a deterrent for abusers. These are our friends, family members, and colleagues. They are people across all communities who deserve to know if their date has a history of violent and harmful behavior.
We also recognize that background checks are not perfect and it’s just one tool our users can utilize when deciding if they want to meet someone off app. To improve systems and make society safer, we all have a role to play. Our approach to safety is multifaceted and is centered around helping prevent, disrupt and respond to potential harm. That’s why we remain focused on investing in new technology, leveraging new innovative features and working with safety experts from across the space to help make dating safer—both online and IRL.
At Match Group we work together responsibly with experts and communities to create a safe environment for everyone. This is an integral to our values and mission to proactively protect people from potential abusers is by providing access to information that can aid these individuals in making informed choices—information that can make a real difference in creating meaningful, safe connections in their life.