I have an admission to make. When people make general reference to swiping left or swiping right, I never know which is the correct direction. Having been married since 1995 I have never had reason to download a dating app. With 270 million people worldwide using dating apps, and with Tinder holding the highest market share and with revenue of US$1.4 billion, many people are immediately familiar with right to like and left to reject.

The latest feature coming to Tinder is the ability to perform a background check on one of your matches. The app will collect public records and reports of violence or abuse including arrests, convictions, restraining orders, harassment and other violent crimes. It won’t disclose traffic violations or, interestingly, drug possession charges.

It sounds like a good feature to me but it does raise some interesting questions. Tinder has consistently emphasised that personal information, such as date of birth or surname, is not shared. To perform a background check, you would need to first find out a surname and phone number. Presumably if you were going to meet up with a match, sharing those details would seem like a sensible first step.

Going to the next level, are we slowly entering the world of George Orwell’s 1949 novel, nineteen eighty-four? First, a background check on a dating app. Next, Qantas is using the CommonPass app to prove COVID-19 test results or proof of vaccination before you will be allowed on an international flight. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is also trialling its IATA Travel Pass with similar objectives. In NSW we need to scan in with the Service NSW app before we can have a cup of coffee at a café. Privacy groups across the world would normally be shouting from the treetops about this invasion but, throw a pandemic in to the mix, and suddenly people are a little more relaxed with their data storage.

Which brings us to the most important point. Data storage. Whilst I would hope in a democratic society, we can trust our governments to store and use data in a safe way, when we start to look at how many private organisations are storing data about individuals, the fear factor raises up a few notches. Then add in the potential hacks that could occur. Service NSW admitted in February this year that data stored by the department was compromised with details of 104,000 individuals being released. Scams are on the increase with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission revealing that Australians lost $20.8 million in scams last month. The most concerning of these is the $1.5 million lost in ID theft. If scammers steal your credit card details, it is frustrating and annoying but typically the losses are minimal and you will be issued with a new credit card. If someone steals your ID though, it is not so easy to change your date of birth and full name. It can take many months to try and get your life back.

What is the solution? Become a hermit? Hide your money under the mattress? In our modern society, I think it is difficult to refuse to live in a connected world. So many of our day-to-day activities rely on our electronic details.

All we can do is be aware of the risks of the connected world we live in and demand that our governments and organisations we use treat our information as if our lives depend on it – in many cases they do.

Tell me where you would escape to if the hermit life called for you at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson

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