Dating apps under investigation for allowing minors to sign up

Posted:
in General Discussion
The U.S. House Oversight and Reform subcommittee is investigating a number of popular dating apps, including Tinder and Bumble, on claims that they allow minors to sign up for the services, and are potentially matched with sex offenders.




The committee has sent letters to Match Group, Meet Group, New Grindr and Bumble Trading for more information about user screening processes for apps like Tinder and Grindr. The letters are sent in response to a number of reports alleging the major dating apps had failed to properly keep underage users from signing up.

It is claimed in the letters the relaxed policing of younger users "creates dangerous and inappropriate situations," reports The Next Web. The four companies have been asked to provide details, such as the age of its users, how it verifies ages, and complaints relating to instances of assault, rape, or use by minors that have been reported to the firms, and to do so by Feb. 13.

"Our concern about the underage use of dating apps is heightened by reports that many popular free dating apps permit registered sex offenders to use them, while the paid versions of these same apps screen out registered sex offenders," said subcommittee chairperson Raja Krishnamoorthi. "Protection from sexual predators should not be a luxury confined to paying customers."

The report referenced by the subcommittee is a joint investigation by ProPublica, BuzzFeed and Columbia Journalism Investigations from 2019, which uncovered more than 150 instances of alleged sexual assault that involved dating apps. The same report also found 10% of the instances involved matches between users where one was previously accused or successfully convicted of sexual assault.

The committee highlights one case from June 2019, when Joseph Meili pled guilty to third-degree child molestation in Missouri after being charged with sodomy, statutory rape and kidnapping of an 11-year-old girl he found via a dating app. Reports from the United Kingdom are also referenced, where pedophiles used the apps to abuse children as young as 8 years old.

Another component of the investigation involves user data, and reports the apps are "inappropriately selling or sharing intensely personal and sensitive information." These include items such as sexual orientation, preferences, gender identity, drug and alcohol use, tobacco usage, employment, and their political views.

The issue of data harvesting, which can allow marketers to build a profile of a user's existence, has become a hot-button topic in recent months. One recent report found antivirus tool producer Avast was selling data on its users to other companies, including visited website URLs and search queries.

So far, none of the firms written to by the subcommittee have responded to the request, but previously Match Group called the joint investigation "disingenuous" and "inaccurate." The company stopped short of stating what was incorrect. Match did admit to not being able to provide thorough-enough background checks due to not acquiring enough data to perform them.

"As technology evolves, we will continue to aggressively deploy new tools to eradicate bad actors, including users of our free products like Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and OkCupid, where we are not able to obtain sufficient and reliable information to make meaningful background checks possible," Match said in 2019.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    Da fuuuuuuu!!!???  Whatta u mean letting minors sign up!!???  "click here to confirm you are over 18". ..... "uhhhhh ya sure, right, Im over 18" says just about every minor on the internet ever ... *clicks.  


    randominternetperson
  • Reply 2 of 10
    digitol said:
    Da fuuuuuuu!!!???  Whatta u mean letting minors sign up!!???  "click here to confirm you are over 18". ..... "uhhhhh ya sure, right, Im over 18" says just about every minor on the internet ever ... *clicks.  


    That seems to be the point - request "for more information about user screening processes".

    As in, there really isn't one. Even a credit card check is easily foiled.
  • Reply 3 of 10
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,024member
    When minors are signing up, they KNOW what they're in for. They are not stupid. What can you do to stop them from signing up?
    redgeminipa
  • Reply 4 of 10
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 902member
    Uhhh…isn’t that the whole idea behind parenting? When will the law start making parents more responsible? Between high schools, colleges and, now corps like google and the like, parents have less and less responsibility and their children are remaining children into their 30’s and 40’s. What a shit show. 
    digitolredgeminipa
  • Reply 5 of 10
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,432member
    Dating apps on the App Store are marked “17+“ If parental controls are in place, children should not be able to download and use these apps. It’s that simple - on iOS devices anyway.
    randominternetpersonwonkothesaneredgeminipa
  • Reply 6 of 10
    Congress really doesn’t have anything else to do it seems.

    /s
    raybo
  • Reply 7 of 10
    mjtomlin said:
    Dating apps on the App Store are marked “17+“ If parental controls are in place, children should not be able to download and use these apps. It’s that simple - on iOS devices anyway.
    This.  And parenting. 
  • Reply 8 of 10
    mjtomlin said:
    Dating apps on the App Store are marked “17+“ If parental controls are in place, children should not be able to download and use these apps. It’s that simple - on iOS devices anyway.


    That's right.

    I agree that the apps themselves shouldn't allow minors to sign up, but how will they validate the age 100%? There should be some onus on parents to setup online boundaries and the iPhone does allow for these.

    Recently, I had to provide my kid with a phone as a safety precaution for something. He was pretty excited to get a phone, but immediately got disappointed because I had turned on Guided Access and the only app he could use was the phone.

    It took me 5 minutes to research and find the feature. A little bit of effort can go a long way in protecting your kid.

  • Reply 9 of 10
    "Our concern about the underage use of dating apps is heightened by reports that many popular free dating apps permit registered sex offenders to use them, while the paid versions of these same apps screen out registered sex offenders," said subcommittee chairperson Raja Krishnamoorthi. "Protection from sexual predators should not be a luxury confined to paying customers."
    OK, if this claim is true, whatever corporate wonk thought putting that particular feature behind a pay wall deserves repeated barbed wire enemas.

    On the whole though, I agree that parents need to be watching what their kids do.  I don't think it's possible for an app to provide 100% protection against and for minors; parents need to get in there.
  • Reply 10 of 10
    blah64blah64 Posts: 986member
    mjtomlin said:
    Dating apps on the App Store are marked “17+“ If parental controls are in place, children should not be able to download and use these apps. It’s that simple - on iOS devices anyway.


    That's right.

    I agree that the apps themselves shouldn't allow minors to sign up, but how will they validate the age 100%? There should be some onus on parents to setup online boundaries and the iPhone does allow for these.

    Recently, I had to provide my kid with a phone as a safety precaution for something. He was pretty excited to get a phone, but immediately got disappointed because I had turned on Guided Access and the only app he could use was the phone.

    It took me 5 minutes to research and find the feature. A little bit of effort can go a long way in protecting your kid.

    You said "I had to provide my kid with a phone as a safety precaution", which is a real thing these days, and I totally get that.

    However, the best option (and generally much cheaper!) is to simply get a "dumb" phone.  They're readily available, they work great for phone calls, and they remove the implicit expectation that the device should be able to run apps, which is frustrating to kids.  And to adults, for that matter.  Yes, I have a bunch of years of personal experience with this.
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