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Garbo CEO explains how to perform background checks on dating app matches, potential dates

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Garbo Founder and CEO Kathryn Kosmides joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how the tech company works with dating apps to help users run background checks on matches and potential partners, in addition to talking about the relationship between guns and domestic violence.

Video Transcript

- Well, singles hoping to meet the partners of their dreams no longer have to guess who's coming to dinner. The non-profit Garbo is offering cheap online background checks to those who want to take extra precautions before meeting new people. Now, the organization's services can be used on its website or on dating apps. The organization launched its services on Tinder in March. And just a few weeks ago, Garbo expanded its presence to run on Match and Stir.

Well, joining us now is the founder and CEO of Garbo, Kathryn Kosmides. Thank you so much for joining us today. So I first want to help our viewers get an understanding of how this app actually works with some of these dating sites and what kind of information they can actually get on some of the people they're interested in dating.

KATHRYN KOSMIDES: Yeah. Great question. Thank you so much for having me today. So Garbo is a web app, like you mentioned. So anyone can access it via our website and create an account. So it is a completely separate experience from the dating apps themselves. You create an account. And then with just the limited information that you have about someone, usually ideally before a first date, like their first name, maybe their phone number, maybe their age or their Zodiac sign, you put this limited information into the system, in less than two minutes we'll show someone if they have any violence or harmful arrest convictions or sex offender records.

- Great news what you're doing Kathryn. Equally concerning to a lot of people that it wasn't being done prior to you entering this space. How big a problem has the lack of background checks been in the online dating industry?

KATHRYN KOSMIDES: Yeah. Very interesting question because I think that background checks have existed in some sort, especially since the rise of the internet. I just don't think that they were a good solution for dating apps. And that's what they've expressed to us is because they often will provide really invasive access to personal identifying information like someone's home address, email address, or phone numbers, and that can be really dangerous, especially if that person is in a vulnerable situation. So we don't provide access to any of that. We really just focus on that reporting of violent and harmful behavior. And I think that's where we've seen dating apps really want to utilize our service because it is a new kind of online background check.

- And Kathryn, all right, so you're screening out the worst offenders. What about some of the middle people? Or is there anything being done to address maybe the middle tier group who is not acting as extreme?

KATHRYN KOSMIDES: So we have developed alongside a group of internal and external advocates and experts our personal offense reporting policy, which determines what we show and what we don't show on the platform. So we're trying to balance privacy and protection, the great debate of the digital age.

And so it's a three question based system. And so we do show things beyond just physical violence. I think that can be a misconception. There is fraud offenses on the platform, things that people would consider violent or harmful behavior, while utilizing look back periods. So we only look so far back depending on the type of report to give people a chance at improving and changing.

- And Kathryn, in terms of where the business started versus now, in terms of the number of users that you have and the sort of partnerships that you're now embarking on, what can you tell us?

KATHRYN KOSMIDES: Yeah. So I found the company in 2018 really after my own experiences within the justice systems and as a multi-time survivor of gender-based violence. And since then, we've really taken an MVP approach to building and thinking through these really hard to solve problems. And so we are partnered with Match Group and on Tinder, Match, and Stir, as you mentioned.

We also have a partnership with the roommate's app Roomi and our rapidly growing to help reach the most vulnerable communities. And that includes our partnerships with nonprofit organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline where within Garbo actually you can talk to an advocate directly without ever having to leave the platform and also providing free search credits in those partnerships as well.

- And we should mention you are a domestic abuse survivor. And that's what sent you down this road. If you could tell us a little bit more about the link that you've uncovered between domestic abuse and gun violence. And broadening out this conversation well beyond dating apps, what's the biggest thing our country is doing wrong when it comes to background checks?

KATHRYN KOSMIDES: Yeah. Actually, just wrote an op-ed a few weeks ago about gun background checks here in the US and the massive amount of failings that system has. And so gun background checks are actually a federal background check done by the government. So it's not privatized. And there are things like the boyfriend loophole, which has been somewhat resolved, but not completely.

And I think that's really it is they only look at, for example, domestic violence convictions but not arrest. They don't really look at older orders of protection. There's a lot of carve outs to kind of allow bad actors or people who have shown that they have bad behavior, especially as it relates to gender-based violence because over I think like 70% of mass shooters have had some history of domestic violence. And often, there is an incident right before the attack.

So I think really establishing that connection between gender-based violence and this massive epidemic of gun violence and really thinking through the federal background check system and the fact that it takes like 30 seconds to run a background check on the federal system, but like pre-employment background checks, for example, which is not what we do, but they can take upwards of 7 to 10 days to process. So understanding why a pre-employment background check takes so long yet a gun background check is relatively instantaneous I think is something else we can explore.

- Absolutely. I mean, and this holistic approach to really ensuring that people can be safe when they're dating or when they're working when they're out and about. We do appreciate your work Kathryn Kosmides, thank you so much.