In this episode of Reckoning, Kathryn Kosmides speaks with Tracey Breeden about how big tech is starting to take accountability for the safety of their users. Tracey is the Vice President, Head of Safety & Social Advocacy at Match Group, a leading provider of digital technologies designed to help people make meaningful connections including Tinder, Match, Hinge, PlentyOfFish, and OkCupid.
In this episode, Tracey discusses:
Welcome to Reckoning, a podcast that explores gender-based justice, safety, survival, and resilience in the digital age, through conversations with experts and advocates. I'm your host, Kathryn, the founder and CEO of Garbo, a tech nonprofit building a new kind of online background check. Before we jump in, I'd like to warn our audience, that we have raw honest conversations about gender-based violence, which may be too much for some listeners. Please put your safety and health above all else when listening.
Today, our guest is Tracy Breeden, the vice president and head of safety and social advocacy at Match Group. Match Group is the parent company of Tinder, match.com, Hinge, Plenty of Fish, and many other online dating and live streaming applications.
Match group is a corporate sponsor of Garbo.
Tracy joined Match Group about a year ago after working at Uber as the head of global women's safety and gender-based violence programs before getting into trust and safety at tech companies, Tracy was a police officer for over a decade and as a subject matter expert in the investigation and prevention of violence against women. In this episode, we explore how big tech is starting to take accountability for the safety of their users, how trust and safety has evolved as an industry and how building for the most vulnerable communities begins to solve safety for all. Finally, how finding and using your voice empowers others to do the same.
Kathyrn: Tracy, it's so nice to have you here today. How are you?
Tracey: I'm doing good. Doing good. Glad to join you, Kathryn.
Kathryn: We're so grateful to have you on here today. And So let's just jump right into it. I really want to start at the beginning of your career and why you originally wanted to work in law enforcement.
Tracey: Wow. Well, we got to go way back for that. I just always felt strongly, I wanted to be a public servant kind of early on. I was very much, how can I serve my community and ways to do that. I always tell people there's two types of people that go into policing. There are those people who are just deeply committed to wanting to serve their community and then there's people who are hungry for power, and those are the people who cause a lot of problems and policing in our communities. I grew up in a family [where] my father was very much a person who helped and invested in the community we lived in and I was always just had a heart for public service. I was still kind of figuring out what my purpose was, but I knew it was rooted in public service and that drew me to policing. I think it was also like my background was in counseling and counseling psychology so I also was very much involved in wanting to help people, but there was just something about policing and that community aspect of really giving platform and the opportunity to drive change in a community. That's really what drove me to policing and I just followed my intuition too. I had went through graduate school, I was working with troubled youth and I was just drawn to it and I followed my intuition and it took me to policing.
Kathryn: Wow, and now you are having a big focus on women's safety. Has that always kind of been something that you focused on?
Tracey: Policing hasn't really changed since when I started years ago. I mean when you look at it less than 10% of the people in general serving and law enforcement are women. What you find is you go into policing and you realize that the majority of victims you're serving are also women. I mean police officers spend most of their time not going to property crime calls, but going to domestic violence type calls. Very early on, and this happens to a lot of women in policing, it was not unusual for me as you really see the need when it comes to women, people of color and marginalized communities and the impact. They're adversely and disproportionately impacted by violence. You see that early on. I also saw that there was not enough of investment into those communities to do more in that space to create safe spaces for them. So I was drawn to that, to really lean in, and that's why my focus working as a police officer and being an investigator, I became a subject matter expert in domestic violence, sexual assault. I really leaned into that space, but also seeing the impact there was on the LGBTQ plus community and maybe my queer woman myself, I really saw the need to also lean in that space too, and do as much work as I could to create safe spaces for those communities. So that became my focus and kind of my expertise and where I really leaned in and focused my efforts in policing. I did a number of things in policing, but certainly that's where my heart was. I tell people you really find your purpose when you look around and you see something that really breaks your heart. If you lean into that it'll also lead you to your purpose. What I was seeing happening to women and to those communities was really impacting me. I decided that I was certainly going to have a voice and I was going to do what I could to drive change for those communities.
Kathryn: It's like that quote, "take your broken heart and turn it into art", its something that's very relevant to me. I think it's the same thing of just seeing what was happening in the world from a very privileged perspective and in my own situation, and I'd be sitting in court and seeing, mothers and just different types of people with way less resources and access to resources than I had. It was like, I have to do something. It's not like I wanted [to], it was like I have to do something.
Tracey: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I felt that too. It was like, I could not turn away and not do something. And I knew that I I also was that person that was not afraid to have a voice to defy and to not take no for an answer and just really go after what I believed was the right thing to do and what felt like the right thing to do to me as I could not stand by and not do that, or do anything meaningful about it. And that I'm just very much, it's very much wired in me to a certain extent.
Kathryn: And how did you take that work that you did in policing and law enforcement into big tech now? You were at Uber previously and now you're at Match. What triggered that?
Tracey: Well, I always say, the universe takes it, particularly when you're rooted in integrity and you're rooted in all about creating positive change in the world. The universe will open up opportunities for you to do just that. I was working in policing at the time and there was some changes. Certainly Uber was going through all that they were going through back in 2006. A lot of focus, rightfully so on sexual harassment and sexual assault. Of course I was working in that space. I was doing a lot. They were looking for somebody to come in and really help them up level their communications, safety communications, really be able to talk about these issues and help address these type of issues. Long story short, a media connection connected me with Uber and it was not like I went looking to go into tech. I was not looking for that. It came looking for me and a recommendation was made that, "Hey, if that's what you're looking for, Tracey's the right person". What I think they didn't expect, is I came through the door and I did so much more than just let's work on your communications. How about we drive a lot of change across a lot of the divisions,= and I really saw the work that needed to be done there. And again- very much connected to the impact that had on people. I was not willing to stand by and not drive change within that system that I had just stepped into. So that's really kind of the story that brought me to big tech, is big tech was looking for somebody that they thought they were looking for for a particular role. They ended up getting something much more. And since I've walked into the space, I've stayed here, and tried to drive as much change as I can.
Kathryn: Trust and Safety was not even like an industry back then. It's a brand new kind of industry. And I think you are one of the pioneers of that industry and kind of creating accountability and safety within tech, especially tech that connects from online to in-person.
Tracey: Yes. There really wasn't. It's interesting. I've had a lot of people who I, I brought a lot into that space that was not present or there, and a lot of people have followed me since I remember people in policing people at NGOs who would come to me and say, "how did you get that job doing what you did"? And I said, "well, I created it, I walked in there and I created what my job was". That's another thing I stepped outside of my role because I knew I could have an impact and then I created the role. There was not a, "oh, we're looking for a Head of Women's Safety". I created the role and they gave it to me and they gave me the platform and the ability and the team and the scale and the scope to do that. But, a lot of people have followed since. I've got colleagues who are now at Airbnb and Facebook and other places that came from that same world that I came from. But I get questions like that all the time from them. Like, "how did you do that"? What you've done is so amazing, but it's also such a cool job. How did you make that transition from government to the private tech industry? But yes, there wasn't a whole lot. There was your typical privacy and security. But yes, trust and safety was either non-existent or not being treated the same.
Kathryn: And it's yeah. As you said, you like walked through the door and I'm sure you kicked the door down and said, “this is what we're doing”.
Tracey: Well, it might've been something like that. My nickname as a police officer, and I think I've told you this before, was “tornado”. I tell people, when they open the door, they don't know exactly what they're getting and then I get on at the end side and I cause a lot of positive disruption. I stir things up just like a tornado. So, I did exactly that, but I will say though, is what you find is when you get in there and stir things up, you find that people, people are just waiting for somebody to say it, to do it. And then all of a sudden, these champions around you start to rise up. You build a foundation, you get things really moving. I think about all the people that worked so hard within Uber who were just really champions for me and fought that. When I walked in, I felt very much alone in it and sometimes I feel alone in what I do, but it doesn't take long for me to gather allies and gather champions around me and build a community. I tell people that's really rooted in my purpose. My purpose is to build a community because one person can't do it, particularly in systems that we have that are in place, and I'm not just talking about corporations, government systems, background check systems, all these systems that need change, the only way we can change it is as a community. One person could kind of start it, we could get people moving in that direction, but we need a community to really keep it moving and to drive the change that's needed. So I really felt like I walked in there and the former COO always said to me, he said, “you came in, you built an enterprise from an enterprise” or “an enterprise within an enterprise”. And I call it, I came in and I built a community and that community continues to kind of carry that vision today. And that's where I really invest my time in people, not just on the outside, but on the inside. Investing in people to really just embrace the vision and know that they can do this too. And also weave it into what they are doing, that there is a way even in what they care about as a business, there's a way to weave these things into their business model and what they're doing. And then they really start to see the value and the impact on people. And then they become a part of that community. So I feel like I'm building a community of safety, and I'm trying to do that, not only with our platforms and impacting users, but within these systems and organizations so that it never goes away. I always say, “I want to get to that place where they don't need me anymore”. And then I can walk out the door, go to another system and do the exact same thing and just keep building communities of safety.
Kathryn: Which leads us to Match Group. Been there for a year now almost.
Tracey: It's actually a year next week. I can't believe it.
Kathryn: Oh, wow.
Tracey: I know it still feels like it was yesterday, a year is a short time period, but there's a lot that's happened over the last year. It's hard to believe it's been a year.
Kathryn: How's it been? How's the first year been?
Tracey: Then it's been crazy. What I'll say is it's a unique space to walk into because when you think about it I was definitely drawn to the dating industry. There's so much opportunity to do work here and walking into a parent company that had never had a Head of Safety or Safety Team before, I certainly get the opportunity to create that. And I love creating, building that foundation, but working across all of these brands with all of these teams was just such an undertaking, trying to get to know everybody, know everything about these businesses. It is a complex environment because it's not like I just walked into one company, I walked into multiple companies really at the end of the day. It's essential. I think when you walk into a situation like this, like a parent company, you have to be a strong leader. You have to be able to leverage influence and if you're not really good at that, it's going to be really hard for you to have that influence across multiple organizations. So I'd say it's been great. It's been a lot of fun being in a new industry, learning a lot of new things. But it's also been challenging because again, so many companies, but also having to build a team. That first period when you're building and you're just walking into someplace is the most challenging, I would say, period, where you're really kind of bringing your values, your vision, your strategy. You're starting to really weave it in into a place, whether it either didn't exist or it's existed at a limited fashion. There’s Trust and Safety teams across all of these brands and Match Group has also done a wonderful job and they were at that point where we just want to up, we want to level, we want to do more. And that was one of the reasons I came too, cause I felt like Shar, who is the CEO, is deeply committed to this and was like, “We've done a lot, but we also know we can do more. But we also don't have the expertise here at this level and we need that to help really guide these teams and bring some consistency and also influence, development across product program initiatives. And you see some of the similar things where it's like difficulty about how do you talk about safety with users? How do you do that? What does that look like? What type of products can we develop? What does that look like? There's always questions about what can we do. They've come a long way and I think we've also up-leveled already in 12 months [with] some of the things that we're doing at Match Group, and there's just such opportunity in this industry to do even more.
Kathryn: And I think that's what attracted me to going into the online dating space. Focusing on the online dating space with Garbo is not only my own story, but because it is the most vulnerable time, you're meeting someone new and there is such a big opportunity to really challenge the status quo and push the whole industry forward. And I think that's what you've been doing in the last 12 months is kind of a “reckoning”, right? The name of this podcast, conveniently better reckoning within online dating and what online dating safety really can look like.
Tracey: Yeah, exactly. And I think that we have the opportunity because you look at Match Group, they own so many of the dating apps. What we do here really will impact the entire industry. And that was one of the reasons I went to Uber. What we do to Uber impacted the entire rideshare industry, but it's also the entire gig economy. It's influenced other tech companies, the dating industry, when it came looking for me, had I not done what I did at Uber. So I think that there's such, I mean, you think about how many people that we have the ability to reach and how much change and good change we can drive in the dating industry. But I certainly saw it as this is a real opportunity and a space where we can do so much, particularly because my vision is very much rooted in preventing violence against women and traditionally marginalized communities. In my opinion and from what I was seeing is that the dating industry had not done that. And there was an opportunity to do that for those groups and had not done it to the level of my expectations.
Kathryn: I agree that it is about leveling up the whole industry and a few folks building community around them. I think what you said earlier really resonated with me. I think we're the first ones to say something often, but not the first ones to feel a certain way, if that makes sense. We're willing to be that bold person to say what needs to be said that other people definitely feel, but maybe don't have the opportunity to actually speak up about it.
Tracey: Yeah, you're exactly right. I don't know how many people have come up to me and said I felt like something needed to be done here or something, but I questioned myself and then you said it out loud. And it just reassured me that my feeling was validated and sometimes all that's needed is somebody's feelings to be validated. And then to watch somebody not only validate their feelings, but have the courage to say something and then see what happens afterwards. So they start to see what comes after that. And it's like, it gives them the courage to also follow and do the same thing. So I think there's definitely that. The other thing I will say, it reminds me, I have a book that has poems from the women's movement in it. And one of them talks about, when you really start to drive some changes, when you are at that place where you have enough, your feelings, I have nothing to lose. And if you get in that space, if I have nothing to lose, you're not afraid to do anything. And that's really how I feel. I don't care where I'm working. I'm a public servant at the end of the day. I used to tell people, I can take my Uber jacket off, I can take my Match Group jacket off, I'm a public servant first and foremost, no matter where I'm working, whether it's policing, whether it's tech, no matter where I'm standing. I'm very much rooted in that. And I know I am very confident in who I am and what I do and where the place it comes from that I have nothing to lose by being fully who I am and saying what needs to be said and fighting for it. And what's the worst that could happen? I don't know, good change? There's nothing that could happen. What happens? I'll go somewhere else. I'll do it somewhere else. Nothing but good has come out of that. I'm not saying it's not easy. It's never easy sometimes, but a whole lot of good comes from that. And that's when you really start to see change because a lot of people, they are in that space where it's like, “I can be fully and authentically me, and I'm going to show up in every moment”. And I have nothing to lose by being fully who I am and standing up for people and standing up for things that I should be standing for.
Kathryn: And being able to risk it all, like I always say, I always put all the chips on the table. I was like, “no, I'm all in on this bet, gambling on myself on what I believe in deeply”. And I think you touched on it a bit like, when you speak up, when you're willing to risk it all, when you show up as your authentic self, you enable safe spaces for other people to do the same thing.
Tracey: Yeah, you do. Yeah, you create safety for others. I have people telling me that all the time, who come to me, they feel safe speaking to me because I lead with transparency. I lead with empowering others. I lead with shared ownership. I invite people to be a part of the process with me to take the journey with me. And when they see me stand up, challenge the status quo challenge, things that feel off to them as well. They realize that I can be safe with that person. And it's very much rooted in how you create safety [in] online spaces as well, right? We're taking a stand. This is who we are. We're holding people accountable. We're showing up when we need to show up, it creates a space where people feel like you've got my back. They feel safe with you. They feel safe using your product. So I really try to also incorporate a lot of those values into initiatives and programs and the things that we do not just with the people that I'm interacting with on a daily basis, but it is about creating that feeling and that safe space for people to be able to do the same. And then you build that community and people need to see it. They really do. It's hard for them unless they see it. And I think that's the wonderful gift that I have to give to others is, I'm going to show up and they're going to see it. And it helps build their own voice, their own courage to do the same. And then reminding people that I'm right here with you, when you do it, like I'm going to have your back. I'm not going anywhere. And as those numbers grow, all of a sudden you've got a community of people who are basically using their voice to shout the same message. And it creates even more safety for people.
Kathryn: Exactly, just allowing other people to find their courage, find their voice through having your own voice is so important. And recently a LA Times piece was published that highlighted your work to “elevate the conversations about online safety, more broadly within Match Group who owns Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish and many others. And also more recently, some recent acquisitions of live streaming applications. And the piece ends with an amazing quote that you said that really resonated with me. And I'm going to share it with our audience, it's “safety is not easy and because it's not easy, a lot of people sit back and they do nothing, or they're quiet because they don't want to have to get into the middle to have those difficult conversations to be in the middle of that difficult tension and that journey”. So can you tell me about some of those hard conversations, especially as it relates to online to in-person safety?
Tracey: Yeah, I think it's really just specific to safety because when I think about online or in-real-person I've never been in a space or working in a space where it wasn't there. I mean, when you think about privacy, privacy is always a difficult conversation because there's this tension between privacy and safety and that really exists in a lot of different platforms and within a lot of different systems, not just in this online and in-real-life space. But I think there's a number of tensions or difficult conversations that come up for me and my journey working in safety. I think you wont be shocked by this one [and] you may not expect this one, [but] I'll tell you that a lot of the tension sometimes is the fact that I'm the only woman in the room having this conversation and we're not at large numbers. It's typically I'm talking to men who are making decisions around safety, who are thinking about or creating– whether it's safety initiatives, whether it's employee, and this is policing tech. I mean, look around how many women are leading safety, right? There's not very many people who are in a position like I am. And so a lot of–especially in tech and corporations– times the difficult conversations are made difficult or there's a tension because a lot of times it's a man I'm having a conversation with who's telling me what should be done about women's safety or how we create safe spaces for marginalized communities. And not that they aren't aware of that, not that they aren't educated on it, not that they're not doing good work. I don't want to send that message. I'm just saying that it is different when I'm standing in a room full of women talking about safety and creating safe spaces online, than it is when I'm in a room full of men having that conversation. So I would say one of the difficulties has been really educating, raising awareness and helping people understand the importance of this and the impact. And part of it is because again, women, traditionally marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by violence. Their experiences if you go into a room and you've got 10 men and you've got three women, there is at least one woman in there based on statistics that has been impacted by sexual assault. So I feel like every time I walk into a room of women, I have a survivor in there almost 90% of the time. So it's a different conversation. And those things lead to some tension. I think the other thing that again, makes it difficult is safety lives in this kind of imperfect world. We talk about the background screening, safety lives in this imperfect criminal justice world. The criminal justice system is a broken system that has just failed so many people and it's failed women and it's failed people of color and marginalized communities. And because safety kind of lives in this imperfect world where it's not always clear what is the right path to take you're never going to be like, “oh, it's a hundred percent, everybody's going to be happy with this decision or the path we've taken”. And then you also have these systems that are broken, that need to be fixed, that people have lost faith in too. It creates this environment where there's difficult discussions. And a lot of corporations just are like, “I don't even want to get in the middle of that, let me just do our business over here”. They don't want to get in the middle of that stuff. And so some of that challenge is helping them understand why they should be in the middle of that. And a lot of times it's also knowing what's happening in this world. It makes its way onto our platforms. It's sometimes reflected on our platforms and that's why we should care about it. Harassment finds its way in our online world or our platforms. Hate and discrimination, the way people are interacting with each other, it finds its way there. So we should be in those conversations as difficult as they are, and we have a role to play. Helping them understand that they have a very important role to play and sometimes those conversations can be difficult about what is that role? What does that look like? Why should we be involved in these conversations? So I think, once they kind of embrace that then it's like— and a lot of times corporations, I will say, want to be in that conversation, [but] they also don't know how to be in that conversation. It's not like there's not positive or good intent. It's like, “ah, we don't really even know how to be in that conversation, so how about we just stay out of it”. So I think it's just that world. A lot of people will talk about safety and privacy, but I say it's more than that. It's what's happening. It's the lack of understanding. It's the lack of knowledge. It really comes from a space of fear, is what makes those conversations difficult is just the unknown and fear of not used to being in those conversations as well. And then I think what I've seen over my time period just having those conversations a lot of times, I've always said if I walked into a room of executives and it was a more diverse group of people and when I've done that, certainly it's an easier conversation because people bring their own experiences. We bring our own, I bring my own experiences. That's what influences what I do. The experiences I had as a police officer, the moments I had with victims and survivors, those experiences, those stories I bring with me. My own journey and being a queer woman and the difficult journey that's been from when I was a young girl until today. So we bring those experiences with us. And when you have diverse voices in a room, they bring that diversity and experiences and it makes those conversations easier I would say.
Kathryn: I couldn't agree more in the sense that if you're just surrounded by people who look the same and grew up the same, you're never going to have a differing opinion, a different viewpoint, a different perspective. And I think, as you said, of men making safety decisions about women is like they're viewing it through a whole different lens than someone who actually experienced this. And it's that the move fast and break things mentality of tech in general is when you move fast and break things, those things are often humans, right? And those humans are often marginalized groups of humans. And you always say–it's on your LinkedIn–but “building for the most vulnerable communities” rather than everything's on a bell curve, right? And we're so focused on building for the average user that we forget about these users on the end. But if you focus on them, if you build for them, you're building for the average person in the middle,
Tracey: You are, you are. And I've always been asked that question too, is why would you be focused? Nothing against being focused there, but shouldn't you care about everyone's safety? And it's like, I do care about everybody's safety. I care about every single person's safety, but I know the way to create safety is through creating safety for those who are disproportionately impacted by safety because all the things I'm going to do for them to create safe spaces for them is just going to automatically create safety for you. And you will feel that and you will see that. So it's really interesting, my approach is completely, and a lot of times in opposition to what the traditional approach has been. And so it's really hard sometimes for people to embrace that. It's not that they don't care about it. It's like, “well, you should care about everyone's safety”. I'm like “I do, I care about every single person's safety”, but let me tell you something. If I create safety for that woman of color over there, who identifies as transgender, who is worried rightfully so about her safety. Every time she walks out the door, every time she goes and uses any type of technology or app. If I create safety for her, if I can create a safe, respectful place for her, then guess what? You're going to have safety as a result, you're going to have a safe space that you can interact with and the end as a result. So I think once I don't get too much pushback after I– how do I say this? I think once people see my approach, I do a very good job of convincing them it's the right approach. Then they realize, “oh yes, okay. You are creating safety for everyone”.
Kathryn: Exactly. It's focusing on the people who are most disproportionately impacted by this stuff. When you build for them, you build for everyone. It's just so important. And, you know, safety is both a communal issue and a personal issue. And we often don't talk about that and about individual and community responses to violence being very intertwined. And so, for example, many individuals don't want to get involved with the criminal justice system because of how the police treat their communities or not wanting to go to family court to get an order of protection because they want their children to grow up with two parents. It's often a cultural norm. So how do you think about the impacts of different safety solutions on different communities?
Tracey: No, that's a great question. I think what the approach I've always taken is we need to be thoughtful. We need to be working with experts from those communities. We need to be doing everything we can to create in a way that really takes those things into consideration. And so I even tell my team when they're creating their objectives, when they're thinking through projects, even product is, I want you to, after you come up with this great idea and we're ready to go, I want you now to take a step back and say, “now, let me think about this through the lens of how will this impact women, people of color and marginalized communities”. And then also is this a situation where we need to bring in an expert because you don't know the answer to that. If you know the answer to that, and you know–“I already know the answer to that. These are the considerations we're taking. This is the impact. This is the test.”-- you know all these things. If you know it and you're like, “Yes, Tracy, I have, but then you look over here or your question. And you're like, I don't know the answer to that.” Well, if you don't know the answer to that, we need to go find the answer and we need to do our best to be thoughtful in that journey. Now, here's the thing, in the world of safety we can never eliminate the impact that might happen to any community a hundred percent. But, we need to one, if we know we have to really balance, what is the impact? If it's going to be a really adverse impact that we need to probably not do what we're doing, right? But, if we can limit the impact to where the impact is very small, but we're being thoughtful about that approach. We're working with experts in this space to make sure that they're informing what we're doing– and when I say experts, who are fully focused on, uh, those marginalized communities or certain groups– if we're doing that, then we have to find–it's like, you're never going to find that best path and safety, but you have to find the better path. That's why I say the trade off is, do we– just because there's going to be some impact–just not do anything at all? Because on the other side of that is so much positive impact that can happen not only for those communities, but for everyone and for other communities. So we have to really look at it through that lens of how do we go down the better path and just stay thoughtful as we go down that path and make sure that we're being informed by experts. Because I've met with hundreds of women's groups, I could put 10 women's groups in a room, [but] you're not going to get them all to agree on every little thing about how you're going about something. But, I do believe I can usually get them to that place where they're like, “I think it's still the right thing to do, but I want you to be thoughtful”, the majority of them, or they're going to help me, they're going to stand by it, or they may say, “ we just want you to be thoughtful and continue to take these things into consideration”. And that's why a lot of people don't do safety because they're like, if we can't do it a hundred percent right or make everybody accept the path that we're taking then we're just not going to do it because that's way too controversial over there. And what I want them to know is that let's have those difficult conversations. Let's be thoughtful. Let's find the better path. There is no perfect path, but we have to move forward and we have to address these issues that we're seeing that show up. Or we have to also listen to our consumers because we're hearing from our consumers that they want something, whether it's a safety feature or whatever it may be, how do we give them what they want while also being sensitive to the impact it might have on communities?
Kathryn: It's why Garbo even is called like a new kind of online background check, right? It's not perfect. There's no perfect solution. And when I started building Garbo, like you should see the old versions of it. It was from a very white women perspective that had a lot of privilege in it. And I didn't realize the disproportionate impacts, like when I found out all of these insane statistics like that over 50% of arrests are for minor drug possession and a huge portion of those are targeted at people of color. I felt like, wow, it's my responsibility of learning these things and then also unlearning a lot of stuff as well, to build the most equitable solution. It's not 100% equitable, but we are doing our best. Like you said, taking the better path than the traditional systems and solutions that existed before Garbo.
Tracey: Yeah, no, I agree. And that's one of the reasons that I was drawn to Garbo. Cause I saw that. I saw you taking a better path and I had not seen anybody in this industry, knowing the industry very well, knowing the criminal justice system very well, as well as knowing the background screening industry very well. I had the similar concerns that you had had. And I think I raised those when we first had our first conversation, but that I saw that you were attempting, one to take a better path, but you were also receptive to continuing the conversation and having the conversations with the experts and continuing to refine and make improvements and listen, and learn, but still also just rooted in this deep care and concern for the impact that your product would have on people. And knowing that similar products, the impact they have on people and how it's not a good impact in many ways. So that was also I think your choice in let me go a different route, and it's not always an easy path to take. I'm sure it's not been an easy path for you at all. I know it hasn't, but taking that, it's like the difficult conversations trying to find that better path is not always easy. But we have to still find a way to move forward and go in that direction because if we don't do it, who's gonna do it? You know, Kathryn, if you don't do it, who's going to do it?
Kathyrn: I'm a big believer in the, “well, why not me” mentality and being a representative of folks who don't have a voice, that's what I really feel like is I have that opportunity and that privilege and that power to do that. So why would I not do that? Again going back to [that], it's our calling almost, you feel like you have to do these things. And in our last few minutes together, our listeners tend to be young women and LGBTQ individuals who are utilizing these new tools and technologies and apps. And they're also often on the receiving end of the abuse that comes along with them. So what would you tell them?
Tracey: Yeah. I think the first thing is we need more champions in this space. So I definitely care about their safety and I want to give them safety tips, but I also want them to feel inspired to come get into these systems with me. Come work for these corporations and bring their passion for these issues to the space because we can really create change on the inside that has a tremendous impact on the outside. So that's one of the things I want to say is we need more comrades like us, Katherine, we need more champions who are coming in. Don't be afraid to challenge and try to redesign a system if it doesn't feel like it's right. And there's a lot of opportunity to create change. But I know a lot of people are using technology. They're using the apps. I could give you a million safety tips. There's lots of tools, all those things. One of the most important ones, I even said this as a police officer, is just follow your intuition. It's a very powerful, powerful thing. Definitely leverage the tools that are available out there, the information, being able to leverage something like Garbo. There's so much that we're looking at potentially creating, but I think there’s plenty of tips out there and I know we're short on time and I don't want to spend as much time on that as I do. Just follow your intuition, leverage the tools that are out there, make sure that–cause I think one thing I don't want to do is there's a lot of tips, there's a lot of tools and I want to empower people with information and tools, but I also don't believe we need to put all the onus on people and corporations also have a role and that's what I'm doing on my end to really find ways that I can prevent, that I can disrupt and that we can respond appropriately when things do happen. And so I encourage people to report, give feedback. Even if you're not working in the corporation, not being afraid to speak out. I had a woman reach out to me on LinkedIn, not that—which I don't want everybody sending everything to my LinkedIn–but I had a woman reach out to me on LinkedIn. She goes, I know you're the head of safety. I know you're super busy. I'm so sorry that I reached out to you, but there was a pop-up message in one of your apps and it's not horrible, but it just makes me feel like it's not empowering to women. And I just want you to know whether you do anything about or not. And I looked at it and I agreed with her and I went and talked to the app and I won't say who it is and told him, you need to change this and let's fix this now. And they fixed it and wonderfully enough went to a female product manager. She's like, “oh gosh, I didn't know about that pop up, we're going to fix that pop-up mess”. So it's like a bunch of women got together and made it happen. And I just sent her a quick message saying, “Hey, just wanted to let you know, this is the new message and we got that fixed”. And she was so moved that I took the time to do that. And there's ways to definitely give feedback with the apps. And this is one of the first things I've really been working on is working on improving that response rate, improving our customer support. We still have work to do, but we brought RAINN in and we're really improving that. Follow your intuition, leverage what you have, but also let's hold one another accountable in creating better experiences and safer experiences. And then just come be part of the community. That's my message. Come join us in creating a community of safety for others.
Reckoning is a podcast produced by Garbo, a tech non-profit building a new kind of online background check. Our executive producer is Imani Nichols with whisper and mutter. Please subscribe to the show via your favorite podcast app. And as always, please send your questions and comments to hello@Garbo.io