Online Dating and the Background Check Debate

There is no doubt the internet has changed the way we interact with each other, including looking for potential mates. Perhaps, you like the anonymity an online match making service provides, while you test the waters. On the other hand, isn’t it just as likely, that a person on the other end of the information highway, values his or her anonymity for a more deceitful, if not sinister reason?

When I say deceitful, I mean something a little more than fudging your weight. For example, according to an MSNBC survey, one third, of people participating in online dating services, are presently married.

The debate on whether or not online dating services should require at least a criminal background check on its members, seems to have been started by True.com’s CEO, Herb Vest. His service does conduct a background check on its members and has been lobbying for the passage of legislation that would require online dating sites to at least conduct a felony conviction search on its members. Another form of legislation lawmakers are considering is a bill that would require sites to warn users that they do not conduct a background check on its members.

The leading dating sites, Match.com and Yahoo Personals, oppose this sort of legislation and believe that Vest is only pushing the issue as a publicity vehicle for his True.com. Other opponents include those that oppose on the grounds of privacy and those that just do not think the government belongs in matters of the heart. Another argument is that members of a site that conducted a background check would have a false sense of security.

As a private investigator, who regularly performs background checks, I actually side with those that oppose the legislation. Not only do I generally not support further government legislation, of anything, but I realize that not all “background checks” are created equally. Having said this, I believe users of online dating sites should, as a precautionary measure, consider purchasing a background check that would, at the minimum, confirm the person’s identity, check for active warrants, check for criminal records, and provide an address history.

After all, employees increasing require background checks before hiring a potential employee; I think people would want to be just as cautious when choosing a potential life time partner.

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