This January will mark five years since I founded Garbo.
With my own experiences as a survivor of gender-based violence, including navigating the legal systems, I realized the lengths that victims must go through in order to try to stop the abuse, how the systems fail them over and over again, and how technology could be used to help solve these problems.
We believed that by making the records and reports of harm already in the systems more accessible and affordable to find, people would be able to know more about who they’re interacting with early into getting to know someone and by doing this we could begin to prevent repeat offenders from getting the opportunity to cause further harm to others.
For the first few years, Garbo was a volunteer-run organization where we first focused on understanding the intersectional problems and solutions — including people search sites and government public record systems. We analyzed these systems, talked with dozens of experts, and ran surveys to further understand the problem and what folks wanted and needed in a safety solution and system.
We started creating educational content to provide people with additional resources and tools to use to identify red flags and bad actors. We pitched the idea of Garbo at local and national events, like New York Tech Meetup and Usenix’s Enigma Conference, and placed as a finalist in MassChallenge 2020.
In early 2021, we announced a partnership with Match Group which would enable us to build the first full national version of Garbo’s new kind of online background check. We spent the next year hiring a team, building the technology, and bringing together experts and advocates from victim’s rights to criminal justice reform and privacy regulations to develop a solution that balances privacy and protection.
On March 9th 2022, Garbo officially launched our new kind of online background check.
Since then, we’ve launched partnerships with online platforms including Tinder, Roomi, Match.com, Stir, and HUD. Our work and ideas about how to create a safer world in the digital age have been featured in publications including CNN, Fortune, and Fast Company. We’ve gone viral on TikTok, joined the Coalition Against Online Violence and the Online Dating Association, formed partnerships with nonprofits including our live chat feature with The National Domestic Violence Hotline and work with VictimConnect, and, most importantly, we’ve been able to help over 1 million people with our technology, tools, and education this year.
But this journey hasn’t been easy.
We are the first to admit that there are many limitations and problems with public records, existing laws and regulations, and the legal systems behind them — which then creates limitations and problems for Garbo.
In a world where less than 30% of interpersonal violence is reported and less than 7% of those reports will end with an arrest or conviction of the perpetrator, we are deeply aware that criminal records do not always fully or accurately reflect a person’s history of causing harm.
Fixing these problems in how we detect, deter, and stop bad actors while protecting and preventing trauma to victims is not easy — but it is possible.
From support tickets to social media comments, we continue to listen to our community and our users, many of which are survivors themselves. We don’t shy away from hard conversations about the problems with public records, the limitations of background checks, and the government regulations and problems that make it all more complicated.
While we can’t tell you everything that’s coming in 2023 and beyond, we can tell you that we’re exploring new ways in which we can capture how harm is reported and use that information to prevent future harm. From adding in new types of data to Garbo’s platform to understanding more about how we can help platforms, Garbo is committed to building the solutions that help us deliver on our mission to proactively prevent harm in the digital age in the biggest and best ways possible.
We’re bringing together people, platforms, and policymakers to create a safety system where survivors are supported and those who are causing harm are detected, deterred, and handled in a way that holds them accountable while preventing future harm.
We know that there’s so much more to do and we want our community to continue being a part of this journey. We started with our founder having an idea, learning from those with lived experiences and vast knowledge, then building an incredible team that is determined to connect the dots to build the best solutions possible.
If you have any questions or would like to be a bigger part of Garbo’s story, please reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for being a part of Garbo’s journey so far —and we’re excited to show you what’s next.
We work with online platforms to help proactively protect their communities through our innovative background check system. Get in touch to learn more about how we can integrate Garbo or help you proactively screen users at sacale.