Washington, DCThis morning, Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) celebrated Valentine’s Day by sending a letter (Click for PDF) to the Federal Trade Commission (FTF) Chairman Joseph J. Simons raising concerns about insufficient security protocols that permit sexual predators to use these applications.

“This Valentine’s Day, as people in Utah and across the country celebrate the love they have or love they are seeking, I wrote to the Federal Trade Commission inquiring about the agency’s knowledge and involvement in helping to keep users safe on online dating applications,” Curtis said. “As these companies work to enable dating across the world, the federal government must work with them in partnership, without placing regulatory handcuffs, to ensure user safety and protect against the fear of being sexually assaulted or harassed.”

Background

A ProPublica report in December 2019 highlighted some of these security insufficiencies with multiple free online dating applications. The 16-month report uncovered possible gaps in security measures that allow registered sex offenders to create dating profiles on the popular applications and sometimes lead to reports of sexual assault.

Security protocols such as flagging sex offenders and alerting local authorities remain challenging for these companies, according to the report. Specifically, collecting reliable information discovered in more comprehensive background checks could require companies providing free services to expend resources in a way in which may limit their ability to connect users.

Congressman Curtis’ efforts aim to generate conversations within the federal government about how to work with these companies to deliver solutions that protect users and create vibrant online dating communities.

Statement of Support

Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Match Group: “Match Group thanks Congressman Curtis for his leadership on this critically important matter. Our top priority is to provide our users a safe and positive experience when using our apps. Congressman Curtis is fighting to ensure that the government acts as a crucial partner in this effort. We appreciate his leadership on this front and look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers and the Administration to bring greater awareness and enforcement to this issue so that we can make our community, and consequentially, our products, as safe as possible.”

The full text of the letter is below, PDF available [HERE].

Dear Chairman Simons,

Today I am requesting more information about the Federal Trade Commission’s role in protecting the safety of dating application users. This follows reports about insufficient security protocols that permit sexual predators to use these sites.

According to an investigation released in December 2019, about 10 percent of sexual assaults occurring on these platforms are committed by registered sex offenders. Some victims – who were assaulted after meeting people on the applications – reportedly saw their attackers on the sites even after filing complaints against these offenders.

Company representatives have indicated they do not screen for sex offenders because they lack reliable information to conduct comprehensive background checks. I understand expending resources on background checks for millions of users would be costly, but keeping users safe as these user-to-user technologies evolve must remain a top priority.

I am requesting more information on how the federal government is currently assisting these companies to uphold the integrity of their platforms and protect their users. Please kindly provide written responses to the following questions at your earliest convenience:

1.       Are you aware of some of these issues? If so, what steps are you taking to help these companies protect users from bad actors?

2.       Are you working with law enforcement agencies to ensure these companies have more reliable information to keep prior offenders off of their platforms? Do you think there are administrative improvements that can be made to keep users safe? 

3.       What can Congress do to enhance your work?

Thanks again for your attention to this matter. It is not my intention to place more regulatory restraints on these companies. Rather, it is my hope the federal government can work in partnership with their developers to create a safe and thriving online dating community. I look forward to working toward this objective with you.

Sincerely,

John R. Curtis
Member of Congress
District 3, Utah