Despite the complications of meeting new people in the midst of a global pandemic, dating apps have shown a recent spike in both downloads and usage. Now, as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, it’s likely that this trend will continue.
In other words, Tinder is anticipating a “post-pandemic uncuffing season,” and they’re rolling out a new feature to prepare. Now, users can upload their phone contacts to select certain people that they’d rather not see on the app, whether that’s an ex, a co-worker or a family member. According to a survey commissioned by Tinder, 40% of people have found an ex-partner on the app, 24% have encountered a family member and one in 10 have even encountered their professor.
Sure, it would be pretty awkward to see your ex out on the dating market again. But the new feature is more interesting for the user safety aspect. For example, if someone has previously encountered a stalker or otherwise abusive figure — whether on the app or off — they now have a tool to directly block them on Tinder.
However, instead of creating a simple form where you could enter the phone number or email address of the abuser, Tinder is asking for permission to access the user’s entire contacts list. Ostensibly, this is for ease of use — Tinder even claims it only keeps on hand the contact information for those you’ve blocked, and not your entire address book — but users may still be wary. For years, social apps have used address book uploads as a big data grab from users, with little benefit beyond friend-finding functionality. More recently, this trend has reemerged with new apps like Poparazzi and Clubhouse. The latter thankfully stopped the practice in March after user outcry.
“We’re rolling out Block Contacts as an additional resource empowering members with peace of mind by helping create a worry-free space for them to spark new connections,” said Bernadette Morgan, Group Product Manager, Trust & Safety at Tinder, in a statement.
Tinder tested the Block Contacts feature in India, Korea and Japan, reporting that members who used the feature blocked about a dozen people on average.
To use the feature, go to Settings under your profile icon, select “Block Contacts,” then grant the app permission. To block individuals, you can’t rely on whether or not they were blocked on your phone. You’ll need to select each person you want to block under the “Contacts” tab then tap “Block Contacts.”
This user interface makes it easier to block abusers and exes, but it’s also designed for people who want to block a large number of people — like everyone in their family or close friend group. That makes the feature a big perk for those using Tinder’s app to cheat, too.
Tinder is strict about requiring a valid phone number to register, though it’s not impossible for people to circumvent the system by registering with a Google Voice number, for example. So, regardless of which safety features Tinder rolls out, proceed wisely.