Interview: The Inner Circle CEO Talks Protecting Users With a Screening Process

The Inner Circle is a selective dating app that targets serious daters who are prepared to quickly get off the app and interact with each other in real life.

It has a strict screening process that aims to limit the amount of bad actors and fake accounts that infiltrate the community.

With online dating’s increasing popularity, more and more criminals are using platforms to find victims for financial or violent crimes. A report has shown that 20% of sexual assaults in Sydney happened after two people met on a dating app.

The Inner Circle is committed to investing more money and resources in an attempt to perfect its screening process

GDI caught up with CEO David Vermeulen to find out about how his company spots fake accounts and what measures it takes to protect genuine members.

Read the full interview below:

How do you go about detecting scam accounts? How much of the security is tech-focused, and how much is human judgement?

DV:We use a hybrid approach when screening to create a community of singles who are serious about dating. The hybrid approach is a combination of tech and human judgement to make sure people on the app are real and are not scammers or fake accounts.

Once a member applies, we use machine learning, social network analysis, IP end-location information and image recognition software to initially screen a profile. The gathered information is then sent to our support team for review. This is a team of stay-at-home mums who are on hand to help our community navigate today’s online dating experience. They regularly give members advice on anything from why they might not be getting enough interaction on the app to how they can change their pictures to boost their activity. 

Dating is, by its nature, a very emotive activity. While tech-focused measures are in place, we believe it’s critical to have real humans monitoring and supporting. They make judgement calls a machine never could.”

When removing fake accounts, you run the risk of false positives. Do you have a process for reinstating accounts that were banned by mistake? Or is this extremely rare?

DV:With over two million members on the app, our team speaks with members on a daily basis. The majority of the time, the screeners are removing fake accounts due to profile inconsistencies. It’s rare for us to accidentally mistake a genuine account. If that were to happen, we encourage users to reach out to us. There is always opportunity to review and reinstate.” 

Some of the threats to user safety come from genuine accounts. How do you deal with issues like inappropriate in-app behaviour, particularly in different languages?

DV: For us it’s simple, bad behaviour is not accepted on the app and user safety comes first. This is where our screening process sets us apart from other apps. We’re in an era of dating app fatigue, with user behaviour getting increasingly relaxed. This has resulted in some people misusing apps, using unkind words, or not showing up to a scheduled date. A negative interaction can put someone off an app immediately – and we don’t want anyone to have a bad experience when using The Inner Circle.

Our team of mums is active in addressing any reports coming in from current users on the app. Of course we investigate each report, but we also take a ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ and a ‘better to be safe than sorry’ approach, meaning we’re vigilant with removing people from the app if they are behaving badly. 

As we continue to expand into new countries, we always have to factor in adapting to different cultures. Our screeners are based in the United States, UK, Netherlands and Germany. The app is available in over 26 countries, so adapting to different cultures is nothing new for us. We also use translation software to ensure we pick up any unacceptable behaviour in different countries.”

Can you talk a little bit about The Inner Circle’s data security measures? 

DV: “This year we’ve seen a long list of apps, across multiple industries, that have failed to protect user data. With so much data analytics, it’s important that we and all dating apps grasp the full scope of our responsibility in keeping users safe. 

We take the security and privacy of our members extremely seriously. We work with Deloitte cyber security and do regular assessments and penetration tests to ensure the system is safe and we adapt as technology enhances. As well as tests to the system, we are completely GDPR compliant and to ensure member privacy, only users can access their personal messages.”

Finally, what are some of the key tips you give users to help them stay safe when they meet someone in the real world? How do you deliver these messages?

DV:Earlier this year, we launched a digital etiquette pledge on the app. We decided to take action when a survey revealed 98% of female members wouldn’t date someone attractive with poor manners and 83% of male members agreed. The aim is to set a standard for dating app users that ensures everyone communicates honestly, respectfully and with compassion. Users can find this pledge directly on the app.

Moving from matching to meeting can be a big step for some people. A great way to ease into dating and meeting people is attending one of our events. Our team is on-site all evening so it’s a safe space to meet your match and get together in real life.”

Visit The Inner Circle’s website here.