The nation’s top dating websites – eHarmony, Match.com and Spark Networks – have collaborated on an agreement with the California Attorney General to protect their clientele from sexual predators by performing background checks on their members. Though not extensive, the background checks do involve consulting national sex offender registries and barring convicted sex offenders from membership. While such a one-dimensional background check is not foolproof, it will make online dating sites less accessible for known sex offenders.
On the heels of this announcement, the Illinois legislature is considering a law (known as the Internet Dating Safety Act) that would require online dating services to clearly disclose whether they perform criminal background checks on their members. If passed, the law would require sites claiming that they perform background checks to use government databases – including criminal court records as well as sex offender registries – and reveal if a person with a criminal record is allowed to sign up. Sites that don’t follow these requirements, or lie about conducting background checks, could be fined up to $50,000 per violation.
With even the most basic type of background check, dating websites can screen out many potentially dangerous members and make online dating safer for the people who use them.