Match.com, eHarmony, Other Dating Sites To Screen For Sex Offenders

It’s been almost two years since women’s safety advocates began pushing online dating sites to begin screening their customers against available info for registered sex offenders. Yesterday, the operators of a handful of the most popular dating sites signed an agreement to do their best with the information they have access to.

The folks at Match.com, eHarmony and the Spark Networks (which includes JDate and ChristianMingle), along with California Attorney General Kamala Harris, signed a “joint statement of business principles” [PDF] that details some of the efforts the companies will take to identify sex offenders and potential identity theft scammers.

The agreement also makes note of the limits these companies face in trying to screen for registered offenders:

While sex offender screening can be a useful safety tool, such screening tools have many limitations which impact their efficacy. However, the providers will use tools and technologies to identify sexual predators, including checking sex offender registries when the providers possess the requisite information to conduct such checks, and, when identified, remove registered sexual predators from participating in fee-based services on their websites…

The providers will remind members that the members are responsible for their own safety and offline activities. As noted, because there are limitations to the effectiveness of sex offender screening tools and use of such tools does not guarantee member safety, providers will not promote or publicize sex offender screening tools in a manner intended to lead members to assume that due to the providers’ use of sex offender screening tools, meeting people online is any safer than meeting people any other way. The providers will disclose in the Terms of Use or User Agreements for their websites that members should not rely on sex offender screenings or other protective tools as a guarantee for safety or a replacement for following Safety Tips.

What we find interesting is that while Match.com is part of the agreement, it does not include Chemistry.com or OKcupid.com, both of which are owned by Match.com’s parent company IAC. We’ve previously tried to get a comment on this topic from IAC but none of our e-mails were ever returned.

Comments

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  1. Jane_Gage says:

    I’d date the person caught urinating in a fountain at 2 AM after a night of binge drinking. Please only screen level five sex offenders because I don’t think we need the dating pool limited any more than it already is.

    • winstonthorne says:

      You’d date someone who didn’t have the common sense to run from the cops in that case?

    • moonunitrappa says:

      Kinda have to agree here. I have a friend on the list for doing stupid shit that make their life suck for the rest of eternity and they aren’t dangerous, just stupid. Just like peeing in a fountain. Ooooh bad man gonna teach you how to pee in da fountain too! Beware!

  2. Hoss says:

    They are implying a level of safety to their subscribers — so what happens if this fails? It’s a huge legal risk

    • scottydog says:

      I’m sure there will be some type of disclaimer stating that “we do our best, however use need to use your best judgement and in a case where you end up on a date with a sexual deviant, we are not liable in any way, shape, or form.”

    • Costner says:

      This is done to appease people who think this is a legitimate problem, but in reality it is a false sense of security. There is no guarantee that someone met online isn’t a sex offender just as there is no guarantee someone met face-to-face in a bar or at work isn’t a sex offender.

      People need to do their homework… this little “agreement” solves nothing.

    • Jawaka says:

      They already responded to this in paragraph two above.

  3. Cat says:

    Oh, crap.

  4. LuzioFantazmic says:

    I recall a few months ago, a woman from MA was all up in arms because she met a person on match.com who was a registered sex offender.

    Match said they would start screening for level III offenders, which seemed to appease this woman.

    Unfortunately they guy was a level II offender and would have made it through the screening process anyways.

    Seems like a bandaid to make users feel good but doesn’t block all sex offenders.

  5. The Cosmic Avenger says:

    Hey, sex offenders need love, too.

    Preferably from their cellmate, Bubba.

    • milehound says:

      +1

      I’m still waiting for the dating site that screens out people with bad credit scores as well.

    • Tiercelet says:

      Hurr hurr hurr, prison rape is funny.

      Never mind that sex offender registries are full of all kinds of mis-applications of justice — like kids who are labeled as child pornographers for taking sexy pictures *of themselves* — but it’s completely contrary to the idea of fair punishment that you can never live down your crime. If we believe sex offenders are destined to re-offend, we should be keeping them in jail; but if they’re deemed safe to leave prison, we shouldn’t be creating sub-citizen status for them and prolonging punishment forever.

      • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

        It’s nuts that convicted murders who did their crime in anger and hatred who do 25 years in jail are considered reformed and safe to release, yet sex offenders (ignoring the abuse of the law you mentioned) stay on the Scarlet List forever.

        Temporary insanity that made you kill? Ooh, send this cat to the mental hospital. Permanent insanity that makes you wanna diddle little kids? JAIL.

        • Free Legal Advice! says:

          Except that where someone may kill in the heat of the moment, no one becomes a serious sex offender in the heat of the moment. We can teach stress-reduction techniques. I’ve never heard of a RELIABLE sex-offender reform program.

  6. TerpBE says:

    “I’d date the person caught urinating in a fountain at 2 AM after a night of binge drinking.”

    Apparently my pick-up technique has been wrong all this time.

  7. giax says:

    Great, so it would not allow anyone to join who ever got caught as a teenager for sexting or just taking a picture of their own … umm, device? Technically anyone (in US) under 18 who takes a picture of their own …. thing is a sex offender. If they send (even unrequested) said picture to you and get intercepted, technically that would make you a sex offender too.

  8. SerenityDan says:

    It’s the ones smart enough to stay off the registry you really gotta watch out for anyway.

  9. May contain snark says:

    There goes 60% of their membership.

  10. nybiker says:

    So, do these sites think people use their real names? Or is there some sort of ‘are you a sex offender’ question that has a yes/no response?

    • Sean says:

      I think they go by name on the credit card to pay for the service.

    • Malik says:

      You just have to make sure that the person you are looking at is a paying member rather than the ones using a free account.

      Most of these sites would allow people to set up free profiles but they need to pay if they want to send messages. Paying would imply that there is some proof of identification (Credit Cards, PayPal, etc). So just make sure that the person can send you a message or use some other function that would only be available if they paid and you may have some assurance of their identity.

      Of course, if someone has a stolen credit card, you are screwed (literally)

    • mischlep says:

      I’m sure the system they use will be as accurate as the one the state of Florida used in the run-up to the 2000 presidential elections to cull the names of people convicted of felonies in Texas from their voter rolls.

  11. Blueskylaw says:

    “We’ve previously tried to get a comment on this topic from IAC but none of our e-mails were ever returned.”

    That’s because you don’t have a GOLD membership.

  12. Dallas_shopper says:

    Too bad they don’t also screen for mama’s boys, men who are terrible with money, and men with serious mental illnesses for which they require prescription medication otherwise they’ll go off the deep end and do crazy shit.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! My husband is a mama’s boy, and is terrible with money, although at age 22 I had no idea. As the years dragged on, the problems got worse, and he has no inclination to improve himself. As soon as I can find a place for me, the dog and cats, I’m outta there.

      I’m terrified that I will never find anyone that won’t think of me as just an ATM machine and health insurance provider. Obviously I have terrible judgment.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        Nah, that’s just what’s left over at my age…mostly worthless men and re-treads. Not interested in either. I haven’t dated since I tossed the last BF out over a year ago and I have no interest in doing so.

        Being single rocks. :-D

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        There ARE signs. You have now seen them all, so it will be much much easier to recognize them again. I hope you get out of there soon. You deserve better.

        I would help if I could. I wish that I could.

        • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

          You have a good point. I thought if we could sit down and work together on things, he could learn how to pay bills, etc. I know there are people whose parents just don’t teach them anything, I get that. But I’ve always been met with “you do it so much better, I don’t want to make a mess of things”. Translation: I want to lay on the couch and watch TV and not be bothered with being an adult, and I want to spend money and gamble like there’s no tomorrow because you can work full time and foot the bill.

          It’s gotten so much worse since his mother died, even though she wasn’t in her right mind for several years before that.

          I’m reaching out to people in my neighborhood who live next to seemingly empty homes to see if it’s possible to move in. I’m determined to help myself!

    • castlecraver says:

      Of course these are problems only men have.

      • Cor Aquilonis says:

        While reading between the lines, I’ve concluded that Dallas_shopper is most likely a heterosexual female. So just swap out pronouns to meet your personal preferences.

  13. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    “The providers will disclose in the Terms of Use or User Agreements for their websites that members should not rely on sex offender screenings or other protective tools as a guarantee for safety or a replacement for following Safety Tips.”

    Oh, that is a guaranteed way to get people to read it.
    /s

  14. Yomiko says:

    JDate and ChristanMingle are run by the same company. That makes so much sense.

    I haven’t used a dating site since my aunt bought be a subscription to JDate for my birthday a few years ago. Two months later I was dating a Catholic (who I knew IRL). Oops.

  15. AllanG54 says:

    I’m surprised that True.com isn’t bragging that they were the ones who started that whole background check thing.

  16. Jawaka says:

    Do these sites scan for any other kind of arrest record? For instance would a guy who was arrested for beating up his previous girl friend or a crazy girl friend who set her boy friend’s car on fire be allowed to use the service?

    Either way I suppose that there’s no more or less risk than if you go out with the guy or girl that you meet at the bar or library. you really don’t know a person until you’ve had a chance to go out with him for a little bit.

    • APCO25guy says:

      the problem with your logic is arrest does not equal conviction. Anyone can be arrested (and never charged) for anything, including you. All it takes is someone accusing you of something, or a cop who doesn’t like you, and you’re taking the ride. You shouldn’t have such incidents held against you.

      The other problem I see with this screening is where are they getting the data from. If it is not from the FBI, or state and CERTIFIED criminal history data, it can be false. This can open them up to civil liability. Only certified information from law enforcement agencies or courts should be used.

  17. pot_roast says:

    I’d much rather they work on purging out dead/abandoned/fake profiles.

    Seriously. If you haven’t logged in for over 180 days, the profiles should be marked “archived” and hidden from regular view. It’s ridiculous to log into something like match.com only to see a bunch of “users” that haven’t touched the site in months.

    Dating sites = rip off.

  18. Naked-Gord-Program says:

    In theory I don’t care.

    In practice if this becomes the law it’s going to kill free dating sites like OKcupid.com.

    As a practicing cheap bastard that pissed me off.

  19. hahatanka says:

    So there was this really nice guy working with Ann Rule who writes about serial killers. And everybody there said, “Ted you look just like the wanted posters for the Green River Killer.”
    His name Ted Bundy.
    No amount of screening will catch all the bad guys/gals. Many a database will wrongly accuse someone of something they didn’t do.
    Best I can remember was two guys born in Missouri on the same day and same name. So their divers license were John Smith 123456-1 & John Smith 123456-2. Crazy numbering system MO had then. John Smith-1 spent many a night in jail trying to prove he wasn’t John Smith -2