Tinder, the app that allows people with mutual interests to connect and converse, has built a web version of their product called Tinder Online. Designed for places and people with poor or non-existent mobile internet connectivity, it will allow customers to use any browser on any device to engage with their service. Their announcement and most media has focused on the increased number of connections, how it will make Tinder more fun, and how they built the new service. No mention of safety.
Tinder has had its fair share of safety incidents. Search ‘tinder safety‘ and you’ll see hundreds of thousands of stories and articles talking about physical and sexual assault, theft, and even murder. Dating and community sites and apps have been used for decades to recruit mules for drug trafficking, retail product scams and money laundering. They are also subject to large scale attacks by fraudsters trying to create or take over accounts, test and use stolen credit cards and sending spam. They have also had multiple privacy issues resulting in an individual’s specific location data being shared publicly. There’s even a decent number of sites helping people to navigate Tinder safely, an Instagram account called tindernightmares, and Tinder themselves publish their own safety tips. To their credit, the number of safety incidents compared to the number of matches is probably quite low and doesn’t appear to be hampering their growth. But when we’re talking physical safety it’s a different game and any goodwill they have can disappear very fast.
Adding a web version of Tinder is a logical thing to do. They will attract new users from countries with poor mobile connectivity, they’ll increase engagement from existing customers and create a few more connections between people. What they’ll also see is another channel for safety incidents open up that they will need to manage. We will see more in-person connections from people without smart phones – who will they call for help when they need it? While you can already use the Tinder app on a computer using a browser emulator, having a native web presence will encourage more large scale attacks from fraudsters using bots and automation. It will also expose new risks that no one has thought of yet as fraudsters and predators invent new ways of exploiting the service.
You just can’t think of physical safety incidents the same way you think about a bad customer experience. If a retail product doesn’t work as expected, you can exchange it. If an item doesn’t arrive in the mail, you can claim a refund or chargeback. If a website is down and you can’t file your expenses, you can do it tomorrow. But with physical safety, there are no returns and no delays. Technology businesses need to be investing into Trust and Safety pillars from day 1 and have a true Trust and Safety culture. The victims of assault demand it, and the public and regulators have very short tolerance of physical safety incidents. Tinder needs to be increasing their investment into Trust and Safety to protect users and help protect their brand from an inevitable public and regulator attack in response to a safety incident.