Garbo Ends Match Group Partnership, Shifts Focus to User Safety

  • Nonprofit Garbo ends partnership with Match Group, halting background checks in dating apps amid undisclosed disagreements.
  • Founder Kathryn Kosmides cites lack of support and harassment from platforms, emphasizing a focus shift to user protection.
  • Match Group seeks new provider while Garbo transforms into nonprofit safeguarding users against gender-based violence and online harms.

In a recent development, Garbo, a nonprofit organization renowned for offering background checks to users of Match Group’s dating apps, has announced the discontinuation of its partnership with the prominent dating conglomerate. The decision, reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, will result in the cessation of Garbo’s consumer-facing operations, along with a temporary suspension of Match Group’s background check services within the affected applications.

Match Group, the driving force behind popular dating platforms including Tinder, Match, and Stir, introduced background checks as a feature on Tinder in 2021, subsequently extending this functionality to its other applications last year. This innovative integration enabled users to run a limited number of free background checks, using only the last name and phone number of potential dates. These checks provided access to public records related to violence, previous arrests, convictions, and restraining orders.

While the exact reasons behind the dissolution of the partnership remain undisclosed, Garbo appears to attribute this decision to difficulties stemming from its collaboration with Match Group. In a candid blog post, Garbo’s founder, Kathryn Kosmides, pointed to “a lack of support and real initiative from online platforms,” as well as the unsettling “continuous harassment and threats by bad actors on these platforms.”

Internal disputes regarding the execution of the background check feature are also believed to have played a role in the split. Match Group reportedly favored the idea of displaying a badge on users’ profiles to indicate a clean criminal record. However, Kosmides held a contrasting view, arguing that identity verification should not be oversimplified into binary classifications.

Moreover, it was noted that Tinder had not actively promoted the background check feature to its user base and had not integrated it into the iOS version of the app, raising questions about its overall effectiveness.

Kosmides candidly stated, “It’s become clear that most online platforms aren’t legitimately committed to trust and safety for their users.” She lamented the prioritization of profitability over user well-being by many social networks, dating apps, and online platforms, acknowledging that while some companies do prioritize safety, it remains an exception.

The termination of the partnership arrives nearly a year after Tracey Breeden, the former head of safety and social advocacy at Match Group and a driving force behind the collaboration with Garbo, departed from the company. Match Group has affirmed its intention to identify an alternative provider for background check services. Meanwhile, Garbo, maintaining its status as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, will shift its focus towards creating tools aimed at protecting users from gender-based violence and other forms of interpersonal harm in the digital sphere.

As Garbo and Match Group part ways, the incident shines a spotlight on the evolving landscape of online dating and the critical importance of user safety. This episode underscores the ongoing challenges in balancing financial motivations with genuine efforts to ensure user trust and safety in the digital age.

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