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Vaccine badges on dating apps could have legal implications: privacy expert

CALGARY (CityNews) — To swipe, or not to swipe? A new vaccine-related feature coming to dating apps could help you with that answer, but there may be some legal implications attached.

A few dating apps in the United States, like Tinder and Bumble, are now making vaccine badges available for users to include in their profile.

While some say this is a positive step, privacy experts say the idea of a proof of vaccination has the possibility to be discriminatory — whether it’s on a dating app, for a job application, or for a so-called vaccine passport.

“There will always be people who say, ‘well the government can’t impose these kinds of restrictions on me, it’s a violation of my charter rights,’” said Doug King, professor of justice studies at Mount Royal University. “And that’s valid, but the ultimate resolution to that kind of argument is with a court of law.”

But King says that’s something that is a long ways down the road.

“Private companies like dating apps are allowed to do whatever they want, so long as it meets the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms.”

So far, the feature is only rolling out in the U.S., after the White House pushed to have the apps offer special incentives to get people roll up their sleeves. It’s all part of an effort to have 70 per cent of Americans vaccinated by July.

In a statement, popular dating app Bumble told CityNews that many users have already begun to organically say whether they have been vaccinated or not in their bios. There’s no word on if, or when, the feature is coming to Canada.

If it does, relationship counsellor Natasha Sharma believes this could complicate a dating scene that has already been drastically impacted by COVID-19.

“My concern is that this creates unnecessary sorts of tension, and also make it even more divisive online in the dating world,” said Sharma.

And while Sharma says the vaccine badge option could have some benefits, it has to be a choice for users.

“People have some very strong beliefs on it, so it might be a deal breaker kind of thing, so in that respect, it could be helpful to know where people stand,” she said. “But I don’t think this should be mandated.

“If we get into a situation where we’re compelling people or mandating them to do that in these types of situations, that could become tricky.”