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01/18/2013

Do you really want your phone arranging a blind date for you?

Apparently even online dating is now too much work. Crazy Blind Date, a new mobile app from dating site OK Cupid, offers you the chance to let a computer do it for you. But is it safe?

The app claims to take the hassle out of dating - the hassle being that troublesome 'getting to know each other' part that often happens before a date. Instead you enter a time and a place, and it'll find you a blind date to go meet. You do get the chance to talk to them (although the photo that they put up will be scrambled). The idea, clearly, is to go and take a chance.

"We’re pulling out all the photo filters and the back-and-forth and turning your life over to computers and algorithms," co-founder Sam Yagen was quoted as saying in the New York Times Bits Blog. Lovely.

"We hide your date’s identity," the Crazy Blind Date site says, as if this was a bonus feature.

It all sounds like a jolly old time, but this whole concept raises red flags for me. Should we be encouraging people to meet strangers who they haven't cased out properly? We're not just talking about a blind date with a friend of a friend here. We're talking about a blind date with someone that you don't know at all, and who is probably unknown by anyone you know.

Dating violence is a serious problem. In Canada, 30% of women served by victim service agencies during 2009-10 were sexually assaulted, according to Statistics Canada. 40% of the women who were assaulted were targeted by someone who wasn't a spouse, ex-spouse, intimate partner or family member. That doesn't mean that they were all raped on a date, but the danger is obvious. Going further back, in 1993 the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women said that 31% of sexual assaults occur in dating and acquaintance relationships, which is roughly consistent. 

And of course, it isn't just straight women who are at danger from dating a complete stranger. 

Of course, you can never be completely sure that a person isn't an aggressor when you first meet them face to face, even if you've been talking with them via email and phone for weeks. The most violent of people can put on a pretty good show over email or a Skype chat, and then turn nasty when you do finally get together.

It's advisable for people on a first date to always be on their guard, and act sensibly. There are some good tips here. These tips apply to people who are dating someone they've been emailing for a long time, just as much as to people on a blind date. 

Would you go on a date with a complete stranger - and would you let a mobile app arrange it for you?

Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets

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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.

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