The risk of internet dating

05 Oct

John Leech thinks the situation is new, and dangerous.

A local council member in Manchester, in the north of England, Leech this year launched a campaign to make online dating companies commit to keeping their users safer.

Over the past four years, 17 people in the Greater Manchester area have reported being raped after using one of two apps, Grindr and Tinder, according to police statistics obtained by Leech through a freedom of information request.

A total of 58 people were victims of online dating-related crimes in those four years, some of them sexual. For context, in 2012 the area had an overall average of 243 sexual assaults and rapes every month.) Many apps offer a page of advice for safe dating.

However, a note a posted to the company's Web site said it is investigating the incident -- and has involved the FBI and cybersecurity company Fire Eye.

Often on multiple apps at once, users can swipe through dozens of profiles every minute and plan multiple dates, whether in hopes of a love match or a hook-up.

Decisions to meet arise from limited information: A convenient location; a sultry glance captured in pixels; a mutual interest in “banter.” In 2014, Tinder users were spending as long as 90 minutes a day on the site.

Tinder, for the unfamiliar, is a matchmaking app that takes pictures and information from Facebook that users then have the option to like or dislike.

If two people both like each other’s profile it is called a match and the option to message each other becomes available.