Jason Hernandez got out of prison in 2015 and started making up for lost time. He’d done nearly 18 years on federal drug conspiracy charges, and only escaped life behind bars because then-President Barack Obama granted him clemency. He settled down near Dallas, began volunteering in schools, visited the White House and wrote a book.
Then he decided to start dating, so he downloaded Tinder. He was open about his past, and at first, it was fine. But a couple months ago, he got a notification: “Your account has been banned.”
This article was published in partnership with NBC News.
Although he can’t prove the reason why, he’s been booted from half a dozen other apps with similar prohibitions tucked into their terms of service: People with felonies — anything from a $10 drug conviction to capital murder — are banned for life. These policies aren’t new, but their enforcement has been haphazard.
That could change. Match Group, which owns Tinder and a host of other dating sites, plans to launch a feature allowing daters to run background checks on potential matches. The company says its efforts are aimed at keeping users safe. But civil rights advocates say the record checks extend an unfair practice of imposing “collateral consequences” long after people have finished their sentences, and will disproportionately affect people of color without actually improving safety.