Recently, there have been many discussions in the media regarding the major online dating sites. Proposed legislation in several states is being considered to require background screening for users of Internet dating sites or at least have sites state whether they conduct background screening.
At the same time, major dating sites such as Match.com and Yahoo Personals have faced lawsuits about possible baiting activities that mislead subscribers to keep them hooked. This has fueled discussion about whether this unregulated industry needs regulation. Talk of increased government regulation always seems to bring about a heated debate.
There would likely be many unintended consequences of increased regulation on the $500 million a year online dating industry. Some of the legislation has been brought about and supported by True.com (one of the top 5 dating sites). True.com does screen it’s users. The proposed legislation would have an effect on all sites as any local or state regulations would be difficult to apply regionally online. According to Corante.com, The International Association of Dating Websites (IADW) does not support the proposed legislation to require background checks for dating sites or to require disclosure. True.com is a member of IADW however.
Many argue that screening users provides a false sense of security and others question the level and accuracy of the background checks being conducted. There is also the issue of international users or those who have recently moved to the U.S. whose backgrounds are both difficult or expensive to screen. Also, performing a criminal check alone does not solve the problem of someone misrepresenting their height, weight or income.
Online dating may not be the correct place to increase regulations regarding background screening. However, here are some facts to consider when venturing out for a night online:
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
•Almost 60% of convicted sex offenders in the United States are either on probation or parole
•6.5 million adults, or 3.2% of the U.S. population, were either on probation, in jail or on parole at the end of 2000
•67% of criminals released in 1994 were re-arrested for at least one serious crime within the next three years
CI asked Kim Millett, Director of Compatible Connections of Albany, for her prospective: “For a time, our business felt the pinch from the growth of internet dating. Over the last few years, we see more and more people who are uncomfortable with the fact that there is no personal touch, screening or quality control with on- line dating. To the best of our knowledge, the industry standard for dating services does not include complete background checks. People who use Compatible Connections find comfort in our screening and matching processes that we have worked to perfect over the last decade.”
Millet also offered some safety tips for dating in general:
“Use common sense and caution as you start to get involved with a person. On your first few dates meet at a public place
and take separate cars. Tell a friend or family member where you are going and what time you will be home. Recognize and acknowledge your comfort level, and that of the person you are meeting. Do not disclose too much personal information on the first date, such as your last name or work place. As your relationship develops, you should learn these things first hand, be introduced to friends and family, as well as learning where one another lives. Try to use good judgment, take calculated risks and stay positive!”
Whether your inviting someone into your place of business or your home, its important to use every legal and ethical method possible to protect yourself. It’s equally important to be educated about the information you are basing your
DATE: January 2006 - Online Dating and Background Screening