In 2009, dating app Badoo was ranked as being the worst dating app to protect its users’ privacy. 12 years later, it’s making some changes. A new feature called Screenshot Block, rolled out in June 2021, will prevent users from screenshotting anything on the app – provided they use an Android phone. Anyone with an IOS device will simply be shown a warning… and there’s nothing to suggest that users will face any consequences.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Firstly, I’m not the only person who enjoys judging (and laughing at) truly ridiculous dating profiles. There are whole Facebook groups and reddit boards dedicated to the activity, and screenshots are also often shared in group chats or on Twitter or Instagram. Occasionally, the people who make these profiles are doing so deliberately, as a joke, and sometimes they’re simply ridiculous and we love to, well, ridicule. If you take away the screenshots, you take away the jokes – not to mention the free publicity dating apps get when things go viral.
Of course, then there are the more serious issues. A lot of people will receive scary or inappropriate messages and sometimes sharing them with friends can be helpful, especially if the person who has received the messages isn’t sure what to do next. If you’re being stalked or threatened, keeping clear records is a good idea, and banning screenshots may well be an issue and prevent victims from exposing a pattern of behaviour.
Then there are online takedowns. It’s undoubtedly controversial, but one option that victims of online harassment via dating apps have is that they can take screenshots and publicly expose the person sending the messages – possibly by emailing said screenshots to the harasser’s friends, family, significant other, or even workplace. Agree with this or not, but it would probably prevent someone from harassing anyone in this way again.
But what about the other side? Badoo argues that sharing private content online is, itself, harassment. This is understandable: it seems good and fair to suggest that conversations are between the obvious participants and if someone is passing on what you’re saying, that could well become uncomfortable. Badoo has also explained their decision to ban screenshots by saying that some users will share others’ profiles and slut-shame them. Which is funny, really, because if you’re going to get angry with someone for using a dating app, you should also note that you’ll only see their profile if you are also on the aforementioned dating app. However, I don’t expect the kind of people who like to slut-shame to understand the nuances of their own hypocrisy.
Badoo has another unusual feature: it allows users to send each other pictures. This has always been controversial for dating apps, because if they don’t let users exchange photos users often leave the app and talk to their matches on Whatsapp or Messenger, but if they do allow users to share images they risk becoming involved in online sexual harassment, blackmail or revenge porn. Obviously, Badoo can stop users from downloading any pictures, but before their screenshot ban they still had an obvious problem.
We should also consider the free speech argument. This can cut both ways: users who don’t support the banning of screenshots would suggest that they are allowed to say whatever they want online, but people who do want screenshots to be banned could equally argue that they’ve only consented to their ‘speech’ being shared with the person they were talking to, and that anyone who takes screenshots of private conversations and shares them online is exposing them without their permission.
Honestly, it’s a complicated issue and the implications are much wider than one dating app. We don’t yet know how this might set precedents in different countries with various privacy laws. Badoo might not realise it yet, but their actions could easily spark a trend with other dating apps and that could go on to massively influence public opinion. Personally, it seems that anything you put on a public dating profile is shared, well, publicly, so it’s not unreasonable to think that it might get shared elsewhere – just like the rest of social media. Don’t add anything you wouldn’t want to become public. As for private messages… unless there’s a really good reason to share them, perhaps they should remain between the intended audience.