You Can Now Screen Your Online Date For Sex Crimes

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Online dating can be a real mixed bag — you're about as likely to end up in a great relationship as you are to be harassed, insulted, or scammed. But there can also be real dangers to connecting with strangers online, and that's where KATIA comes in. The screening software aims to make online dating safer for women by helping them identify if they've matched with a violent criminal.

KATIA was named for a rape survivor, and it was developed in response to 12 women's deaths at the hands of men they met online. It uses a process similar to Google's reverse image search to match men's profile pictures with police database photos of rape suspects, perpetrators of domestic violence, and convicted sex offenders. While other types of background checks may require more information than dating profiles contain, KATIA only needs a photo to get started. A clear image of the man's face is best, but KATIA's facial recognition software can work with low-resolution photos, pictures taken at different angles, or even photos taken up to 25 years apart. Users may also send in text from profiles or messages they've received from their potential dates.

The actual process of requesting a screening is meant to be as accessible and secure as possible, and it's completely confidential and anonymous. It's also quick and relatively cheap: Results of the screening are emailed to the user after about three hours, and the whole thing costs $15. As of now, the service is only available in the U.S. and Canada.

Thus far, KATIA has already successfully identified a convicted sex offender using only a mugshot and a mirror selfie. With 27% of people under 25 (and counting) taking advantage of online dating, ensuring that these sites and apps are safe spaces is more important than ever.

For those in need of help or support, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

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