Whether in search of a date for the weekend, or just a taxi, people are increasingly using apps to meet their social needs and make sure their lives stay on schedule. But this convenience does come with some risks. Since many of these apps depend solely on their users or employees who are part of the gig economy to keep things running, there is minimal regulation by government or public safety organizations.
This means it is up to you, the app user, to take the necessary precautions to stay safe. Let’s look at three popular apps and review some of the most important safety tips for while using them.
Rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft
Uber’s 2019 safety report noted that 3,045 sexual assaults, 58 fatalities, and nine fatal physical assaults were reported out of the 1.3 billion total rides completed in 2018. As a result, Uber started several new initiatives, including ways for rideshare companies to share information with each other about dangerous individuals, a PIN verification system that prevents riders from getting into the wrong vehicle, and an audio recording feature riders can turn on if they feel unsafe. While these developments are positive, ensuring safety is still mostly the responsibility of the users.
1. Make sure the car that arrives to pick you up matches the description of the ride you booked. The color, make, and model of the vehicle are available to you through the app, as is the license plate, so you should have no problem identifying the correct vehicle.
2. Uber and Lyft drivers are rated on a scale of one to five. If a driver with an unusually low rating and strange driving record comes up, feel empowered to cancel the ride. You can also send an email to the app to let them know why you chose to do so. This way your own rating may not be affected.
3. Use the “share status” option in your app so that friends and family can track your ride. Always let someone know your destination and check-in through a text once you’ve safely arrived.
4. If you experience harassing behavior, report it immediately to the ride-sharing company and the police. The company should review your claim and decide whether to remove the driver from the platform.
5. Never ride in the front seat! Many reports of sexual assault and aggressive touching have taken place when riders were asked to sit in the front.
Dating apps like Tinder and Hinge
According to a 2019 ProPublica report, more than a third of the over 1,200 women surveyed by the Columbia Journalism Institute said they were sexually assaulted by someone they met on an online dating platform, with over half saying they had been raped. The Australian Institute of Criminology found that three in four of their survey respondents had been victims of sexual violence due to dating apps in the last five years.
Given these frightening statistics, there are several key tips to remember that can help prevent these negative outcomes.
1. Avoid signing up to dating apps by using a social media account like Facebook or Instagram because this allows data from these platforms to be exchanged. Other dating app users can then often find you via social media, effectively removing the anonymity that most users rely on for safety.
2. If you suspect a picture posted on a dating app is not authentic , you can do a reverse image search to see if someone is catfishing, or lying about who they are online. You can also block and report the user.
3. For initial communication, always stay on the app. Once a predator has your phone number, it can be used to impersonate or stalk you.
4. Make sure you have your own form of transportation, so you can leave if you are feeling uncomfortable. If things really seem suspicious, consider enlisting a bartender or server to help you out with an exit plan.
5. Never ever entertain requests for money from online dates. No matter how genuine they seem – or how attractive you find them – do not comply. Asking for money from a date you recently met is a red flag.
The proliferation of apps has undoubtedly simplified our lives, offering unparalleled convenience and a plethora of options right at our fingertips, be it for socializing or availing services. However, this convenience is not without its share of perils. The gig economy, which powers many of these apps, often operates with minimal oversight, leaving users vulnerable to a range of safety and security issues. Whether it’s rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft or dating platforms like Tinder and Hinge, users must be proactive in safeguarding themselves.
Remember, while these apps offer convenience and connection, it is paramount to prioritize safety and exercise vigilance. By adhering to safety tips and maintaining a cautious approach, users can mitigate risks and enjoy the benefits these platforms offer, ensuring a balanced and secure experience in the digital age.