Have you ever looked through the “explore posts” feature on Instagram, found your next #MCM or #WCW and thought, “If only I could meet this person?” They might not follow you back on the photo sharing site, but because of mobile dating app Happn, you might have a chance at following them in real life!
That last sentence should be worrisome to many.
The overall premise of Happn is similar to Tinder—using GPS information, users match with potential daters based on gender and age. The difference between the two dating apps is the geographic concept that allows users to interact. Tinder allows users to match with people from up to 100 miles away, without ever leaving the comforts of home. With Happn, to match with another user, both users must come within approximately 250 meters of each other, which is almost the length of three NFL football fields. Furthermore, Happn provides its users with the location of where they crossed paths, when they crossed, and the frequency of their paths crossing. Some people have crossed paths with each other multiple times, information that otherwise may not be available if not for the app.
Happn’s CEO Didier Rappaport says that the app cannot be used to stalk people, but that can’t be said with definite certainty. The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women defines stalking as “a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct…that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” Examples of stalking include waiting for the victim in various locations and harassment via the Internet.
Happn allows users to learn the traveling habits of individuals long before they decide to communicate with one another. From there, a stalker may be able to establish where one lives, goes to school, or spends their free time. If a conversation or a relationship with a user is going bad, one party may decide to no longer engage in communication, where the other party may decide they don’t want the interaction to end. Moreover, because there is no way to verify who is actually using a Happn account—people steal other people’s photos and names all the time (i.e. Catfish)—a stalker can follow a victim without ever revealing their true identity.
The best course of action is to use sound judgment when using mobile dating sites. Be aware of your surroundings and report suspicious activity to the authorities. If you do believe you are being stalked, take screenshots of all the information you receive and print them out—you can use them as evidence to obtain a restraining order in court.
If those steps do not make you feel comfortable, start dating the old fashion way: Walk up to someone and say, “Hi.” This is not a foolproof way to avoid being stalked, but at least you can actually see the person you are talking to.
Want to see cool posts? Follow me on Twitter @easonwilson