A new security feature rolling out on Tinder will help to protect LBGTQ+ users who travel to dozens of nations, which still criminalize same-sex acts or relationships.
As part of the update, users who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer on the app will no longer automatically appear on Tinder when they arrive in an oppressive state. This feature, which Tinder dubs the Traveler Alert, relies on your phone’s network connection to determine its location. From there it will give users the choice to keep their location private. If users opt-in to make their profile public again, Tinder will hide their sexual orientation or gender identity from their profile to safeguard the information from law enforcement and others who may target them, the company said.
Once a user leaves the country or changes their location, their profile will become visible again.
“The purpose of this is to protect users who could be persecuted for their identity in these countries,” a spokesperson said.
The dating app maker, which has tens of millions of users in 190 countries, said the update will warn users when they travel to a country where same-sex relationships are punished under law help to keep “all its users safe.”
“It is unthinkable that, in 2019, there are still countries with legislation in place that deprives people of this basic right,” said Elie Seidman, Tinder’s chief executive.
Seidman said it was part of the company’s belief that “everyone should be able to love who they want to love.”
When traveling internationally, foreign nationals have to abide by the laws of their host country — no matter how different or abhorrent the rules may be. Although LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way in recent years in many Western countries, dozens of less-progressive countries consider same-sex acts or relationships illegal.
In March, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) found 69 countries considered same-sex acts illegal — the number of countries included in the Traveler Alert — sans Botswana, which recently decriminalized same-sex relationships.
Nine of the countries, including Iran, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia — a major U.S. ally in the Middle Easy — allow for prosecutors to pursue the death penalty against same-sex acts and relationships.
Despite a slow but promising push for equal rights, several countries have reversed course and doubled down on their laws, despite international condemnation. One such nation — Brunei, a small south Asian absolute monarchy — was forced to back down from its plans to sentence those who had gay sex to be stoned to death amid outcry from several major companies and celebrities who threatened to boycott the country.
ILGA’s executive director André du Plessis praised Tinder’s effort to warn its users.
“We work hard to change practices, laws and attitudes that put LGBTQ people at risk — including the use of dating apps to target our community — but in the meantime, the safety of our communities also depends on supporting their digital safety,” he said.