Tinder’s plan for criminal record checks raises fears of ‘lifelong punishment’

Tinder’s plan for criminal record checks raises fears of ‘lifelong punishment’

Excerpted from The Guardian feature story by Hope Corrigan

When Jerrel Gantt was released from prison after three years, he was handed a pamphlet about healthcare and nothing else. He began searching for employment, a deep source of anxiety for him, and secured housing through a ministry in New York City. He later enrolled in school part-time.

As he settled into life outside of prison and developed a support system, Gantt began going on dates with people he met on apps like Tinder.

The process has not been without challenges – revealing that he is formerly incarcerated usually comes up early in the dating process for Gantt. “It’s something I dread having to do, and I feel like I have to do it because that’s the type of person I am,” Gantt said. Though information about his criminal history is public record, he likes to be in control of that conversation so he can be as upfront and clear about the details as possible.

Now, a new initiative aims to get that information into the hands of dating app users before a date even takes place, partly to address safety issues that arise on dating apps. The company Match Group, which includes a portfolio of apps like Tinder, OkCupid and Hinge, recently announced a partnership with a non-profit background check company called Garbo to integrate background checks into its online properties.

But critics argue the new integration could mimic notoriously faulty background checks and effectively discriminate against the nearly one-third of the adult working population in the U.S. with criminal records, without necessarily making dating apps safer.

Garbo’s goal is to develop a two- to three-minute background check that flags information to dating app users without sharing home addresses, email addresses, or phone numbers. If a user chooses to run a background check on a match, the user would pay a yet-to-be-determined fee.

Research shows that interpersonal relationships are key to successful re-entry for a formerly incarcerated person. Some see this move by Match Group as one more area of life where those who have had involvement with the legal system, like Jerrel Gantt, face barriers to success.

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