Tinder is rolling out a panic button for dates that take a dangerous turn.
Tinder’s parent company, Match Group, is partnering with Noonlight, an app that uses location data to connect people with emergency responders. Starting Tuesday, Tinder users can add a badge to their profiles that shows they are “protected by Noonlight” and enter information about an upcoming date. Although Noonlight cautions that it is not a replacement for 911, it says it is a viable option in situations where a person can’t talk or text, or isn’t comfortable dialing 911.
“As a company we’ve made great strides in building technology that our users can use to have a safer experience,” Match Group chief executive Mandy Ginsberg said in a statement. “But this is an ongoing process, and as new technology and products develop in this area that we can adopt, we will continue to evolve.”
Singles around the world have stories about dates gone bad. But dating sites have been under scrutiny for how they protect users — or don’t — from predators and sexual harassment. And while registered sex offenders are banned from Match Group’s platforms, those apps don’t conduct background checks on all users. (Many apps like Tinder don’t require people to enter their full names and billing addresses, which are used for identifying sex offenders, Ginsberg told The Wall Street Journal.)
More than 40 million Americans use online dating services or apps, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. But it’s unclear how many people have been harmed through connections made on such platforms. (RAINN provides a list of signs daters should look out for here.)
Tinder users who add Noonlight to their profiles can enter information about a meet up, such as whom and where they are meeting. If a user taps the panic button, Noonlight will prompt them to enter a code. If the user doesn’t follow up, a text will come through from Noonlight. If there’s no response, Noonlight will put in a call. And if there’s still no answer, or other confirmation of an emergency, Noonlight will summon the authorities.
Tinder’s earlier safety efforts focused on monitoring messages and using machine learning to screen for harmful language and photos. Tinder also is testing a photo verification tool to ensure that every person on the platform is who they say they are.
Users have to give Noonlight permission to track their locations, but Ginsberg told the Journal that Noonlight won’t transfer that data to Match Group or use it for marketing.
Match Group plans to extend the features to its other brands, which include OkCupid, Match, Hinge and PlentyofFish, over the next few months. The company would not disclose the size of its investment in Noonlight.
“Meeting a new person can be an anxiety-inducing event for a myriad of reasons,” Noonlight Co-Founder Nick Droege said in a news release. “In working closely with Match Group brands, our goal is to make sure safety isn’t one of those reasons.”