A House subcommittee is investigating popular dating services, such as Tinder and Bumble, for allegedly allowing minors and sex offenders to use their services.
Bumble, Grindr, The Meat Group and Match Group, which owns popular services like Tamper, Match.com and Oakkeepid, are the current targets of the United States House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on economic and consumer policy investigations.
In separate letters to companies Thursday, the subcommittee is seeking information on the age of users, the age verification method and any allegations of assault, rape or use of services by minors. It is asking for details about the services’ privacy policies and what users will see when they review and agree to the policies.
Although the minimum age for Internet service use in the United States is typically 13, dating services generally require users to be at least 18 years old due to concerns about sexual predators.
“Our concern about the underage use of dating apps has been popularized by reports that many popular free dating apps allow registered sex offenders to use them, while paid versions of these same apps show registered sex offenders,” Rep. King Krishnamurti, a Democrat who heads the Illinois subcommittee, said in a statement. “Providing protection from sexual predators should not be a luxury limited to consumers.”
Match Group says it uses “every possible tool” to keep minors and bad actors out of the service and continues to invest in technology to keep users safe. In an emailed statement, the company said the problem was more widespread and that other parties, including the App Store, who know their users need to “perform their part, too.”
The match added that the national written criminal registry needs to be updated so that the digital footprints of the offenders can be tracked and blocked by social media and dating services.
Gander and The Meat Group did not immediately respond to comment Thursday. There was no immediate comment on Bubbly.
In addition to the security issue, the investigation seeks to address concerns about data from services requesting matches. This national information may include sexual orientation, gender identity, political views and drug, alcohol and tobacco use.
The subcommittee cited a report from a Norwegian customer group this month that it found that dating apps including Grander, OkCupid and Tinder leaked personal information to potential advertising technology companies in violation of European data privacy laws. The Norwegian Consumer Council says it has found “serious privacy violations” in its analysis of how shadowy online advertising companies track and profile smartphone users.
Match Group’s parent company IAC has stated that it only shares information with third-party applications “when it is deemed necessary to operate its platform” with third-party applications. The company says it considers the practice in line with all European and US regulations.