Image: William Murphy/Flickr

Dating App Gatsby Doesn't Want You to Swipe Right on Criminals

"Online dating has pretty much gone unchecked for years."

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May 29 2017, 4:00pm

Image: William Murphy/Flickr

New dating app Gatsby—so named after that canon of required high school reading encouraging young people to engage in the art of deception to win over their objects of affection—allows you to cut corners in your pre-dating due diligence by conducting background checks on your matches for you.

The two-month old company does so by "acquir[ing] publicly available databases from cities, counties, state governments as well as third parties," Gatsby CEO and founder Joseph Penora explained.

"Currently anyone with a criminal conviction is banned from the app," he told Motherboard. "Online dating has pretty much gone unchecked for years. There is a big issue when it comes to women and men being targeted for both violent and financial crimes."

While the app has been praised for ensuring users' safety in light of alarming reports suggesting that sex offenders use apps to find potential victims, it's also been criticized for its blanket ban of anyone with a record—which could be the result of an offense as benign as marijuana possession.

"We're not here to make judgement calls on the severity of crimes, we just want to make the safest platform available," Penora said. "With 10 percent of sex offenders admitting they targeted women on dating apps, people having their identities stolen by criminals they met on dating apps, it's the 800-pound guerrilla in the room that so far no one has addressed."

A quick investigation—bombarding far too many acquaintances with invasive questions about their dating lives—revealed that women are typically more concerned with safety in the dating world than men.

Chris Stanley, executive producer of the Bennington Show on Sirius XM and avowed Tinder user, told Motherboard he typically has "zero concerns" regarding other users' criminal records and that the only time he has felt slightly unsafe in a dating situation, he emerged unscathed.

"Met a crazy girl in a hotel room in Long Island City [in the New York City borough of Queens] and had a feeling I may have been getting scammed—like her boyfriend would come and beat the shit out of me," he said. "Everything turned out great, that did not happen. She's in rehab now."

He says he would try Gatsby out, "though I've been arrested a few times so I don't know if they make that public, not that I would care."

Talia Samuelson, a writer based in Buenos Aires, told Motherboard that while safety was indeed a concern, she found Gatsby's premise strange.

"That's a very odd sales pitch: 'Get your rocks off with guaranteed non-criminals!'. Is that where the bar is? I hope I can tell who is shady without a background check," she said.

"Isn't the whole point of dating a test of your own judgement?"

"Also, if you're that serious about finding a mate, shouldn't you be on eHarmony or asking your grandma to set you up?" Samuelson added. "Bottom line: I don't walk around dreaming about a way to meet people without a criminal record. I would like an app that filters out people who are 'Scared of dogs.'"

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