No one is guaranteed safety on a networking or dating app


Rachel Hutchinson, 25, found herself bored with no company on the last night of her holiday in Sydney, Australia.

The typically shy traveller logged into friend matching app Palgo? and searched for an acquaintance nearby who had interests in fashion, fitness, and had a confident, positive personality.

She stumbled upon “free spirited” stranger, Debbie.

After a short online conversation, the pair organised to meet for the first time and went out for dinner together that evening.

Hutchinson said they instantly became good friends and continued to keep in touch across the ditch.

But dangerous incidents during physical meetings between strangers who connect via dating apps suggest it could have been a different story.

Palgo? founder Chelcie Cookson said user safety was top of mind when she created the app but she could only provide guidelines for safety, not guarantee it.

“A lot of users in 2017 are very street smart, very aware, they know the risks,” Cookson said.

“All you can do on an app is provide guidelines for them [users] to adhere to. Whether they follow them or not is up to them.”

The app allows any one above the age of 16 to find a potential friend in the same location by searching for personality characteristics.

Cookson said she built the search engine to focus on character, not appearance or sex, to steer clear of the online dating agenda.

She said she deliberately made it impossible for users to restrict their searches to male or female or zoom in on others’ photos.

Users between the ages of 16 and 18 had to get parental permission to sign up to the app, but even that safety feature was voluntary.

Cookson said her greatest fear was that users would lie about their age and identity in their Palgo profile.

She said that problem, known as catfishing, was common on dating app Tinder.

Cookson said meeting a stranger that one befriended online was normal today.

She made Palgo primarily for strangers to become friends but dating was an inevitable future for the app, she said.

“For me, Palgo? is focused on friendships and if dating comes with it, then congratulations.”



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