Lawmakers seek answers from dating apps regarding privacy concerns, sex offenders

Lawmakers seek answers from dating apps regarding privacy concerns, sex offenders

A House subcommittee on Thursday launched an investigation into reports that several popular dating services and apps are failing to screen out underage users and then selling their data.

The House Oversight and Reform subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy sent letters to Bumble, Grindr, The Meet Group and the Match Group, which owns Match.com, Tinder and OkCupid, asking for information on their handling of the issue.

“According to recent reports, numerous dating apps fail to effectively screen out underage users, creating dangerous and inappropriate situations,” subcommittee chair Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiHillicon Valley: Barr threatens tech's prized legal shield | House panel seeks information from Amazon's Ring | Trump DOJ backs Oracle in Supreme Court fight against Google | TikTok unveils new safety controls House subcommittee requests information from Ring about cooperation with police, local governments Lawmakers with first-hand experience using food stamps call on Trump not to cut program MORE (D-Ill.) wrote in the letters.

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"This problem is exacerbated by policies that permit, and in some cases encourage, underage users to falsely claim that they are 18 years old in order to gain access to these apps."

Most dating apps require that users are 18 years of age, and verify that by linking to existing Facebook profiles or asking for identification. 

The letters also cite reports that platforms fail to screen out sex offenders on free versions of their apps.

"Protection from sexual predators should not be a luxury confined to paying customers," Krishnamoorthi wrote.

The letters also point to a recent report from the Norwegian Consumer Council alleging that several dating apps share personal data with marketing partners without notifying users.

The subcommittee requested information on users' ages, procedures for verifying ages and complaints concerning assaults, rape or the use of the services by minors.

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Krishnamoorthi requested that documents be produced by February 13.

Match Group told The Hill in a statement that it uses "every tool possible" to keep minors off of the platform. 

"But, this is a broader internet problem and everyone needs to do their part, which is why we implore third-party App Stores like Apple and Google who know exactly who is using these products to stop distributing them to minors and registered sex offenders," the company continued.

"Furthermore, the registered sex offender database needs to be updated so that a perpetrator’s digital footprint can be tracked and blocked by our industry and all social media companies - particularly the ones that freely allow underage users on their platforms."

Grindr, The Meet Group, and Bumble did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Hill.