Safer Online Dating?

In response to my posts below re background checks and online dating, Shasta asked some really interesting questions, and I thought I’d share my response in a new post.
QUESTION: Are they [True.com] only filtering out people that have been to jail? Are they filtering out people based on what they were convicted on? Do you have to do any jail time at all? Do they get filtered on having a police record?
RESPONSE: From the company website:
“TRUE® better protects members’ safety with multiple layers of security. We screen the name you give us for U.S. felony and sexual offense convictions using one of the largest criminal records databases on the Internet….
Anyone with a felony or sexual offense conviction recorded in this database is prevented from communicating with TRUE members. Only U.S. felony and sexual offense convictions (not arrests) are covered by the searches. Members are only screened for convictions in the United States.”
From the above statement, it appears that you have to be convicted of a crime, not just arrested. Also, it doesn’t really matter what the crime was, if you have a conviction, you are automatically excluded.
QUESTION: As far as getting into people’s financial history, yeah, I don’t want to deal with anyone else’s financial burdens either, but I consider this a gray area. If we allow this, why not try to get access to people medical histories to see if they have STDs or STIs, or other health issues that may hurt us or that we just don’t like/want to deal with?
RESPONSE: I would agree that it’s a gray area and as such, for this part, the data should not be available for everyone to see. Also, it should not be a full credit record. The company would do the screening and based on a formula provide guidance. It could be as simple as having green (ok to proceed), yellow (stop and ask a few questions) and red (stop and ask a lot of questions) buttons.
So both interested parties would have to agree to allow the online dating company to share their financial health status with the other person. Thus, for some, it would happen in the early stages, some later down the line. For others maybe never at all. Part of what this is really trying to do is to encourage people to be honest with one another from the start. Truth be told, if I started dating someone and found out that he had bad credit due to some prior life altering experience (i.e. illness, death in family, etc), I wouldn’t completely discount him. However, I would want to know up front. I don’t want to be deceived or worse yet simply kept in the dark. Considering that financial stress/problems is one of the main reasons for the increase in the divorce rate, I want to know early one what I’m dealing with to help guide my decision on whether or not I want to continue exploring a romantic relationship. Without all the facts, I can’t make a sound decision.
As for the whole sexual and medical history, since there is no compiled national database, both parties will have to stick to relying on each other to be truthful about their history. Strangely, I’m fine with that. Since I don’t plan to jump into bed with a potential partner immediately, and I won’t then have to worry that person may be hiding a criminal conviction and or bad debt, then I can relax a bit and make a determination when the time is right about whether or not I really like the person enough to take the risk involved with a sexual relationship.
QUESTION: Exactly how far should we be allowed to go into someone’s life without saying a word to them…and how do you justify going so far in one area, but not another?
There are lots of dating sites out there and I’m sure that not all will subscribe to background checks unless of course there is some sort of legislation. Thus, people will have a choice as to what kind of service they want to use to potentially meet a partner. One that does background checks or one that is more free for all. Personally, I’d take the one that does background checks – even if it meant paying a much higher fee. eHarmony.com matches people based on their personality, to me screening out those with criminal and bad debt history is just an extension. No it’s not going to be able to screen out all the bad/crazy people, but its going to give me some assurance that the pool of candidates closer fits my own morals and standards. To start, that means no criminals.
QUESTION: How much right to privacy do we have?
People can have all the privacy they want. This system is totally voluntary. No one has to go online to use a dating service to meet someone. Furthermore, just like some banks have strict lending policies and some have more riskier practices at various interest rate levels, so should we have different levels of offerings as it relates to online dating services. So people should have the option of continuing to use popular sites like match.com that have all the basic features, or they can step it up a bit, and use a service like true.com that screens out married people and those with criminal background. That to me is a more attractive product because it’s safer. Now, I’m not foolish to think that its going to be 100% safe – but it will make it safer than it currently is today.
STATEMENT: And just because someone doesn’t have a record, and stellar credit, doesn’t mean that person couldn’t have some other very serious and potentially threatening issues.
RESPONSE: I totally agree. Crazy is everywhere — at church, at the local bar/pub/night club, work, etc. However, if I am going to pay for the privilege of getting an introduction, I want to know that the pool is more targetted, more qualified. Basically, I’m only interested in the good leads. For a lot of people like myself, to start, that means no criminals. The system won’t be full proof but it will sure as hell be a lot better than it is now.

2 Comments
  1. Here is a link to a blog-update about an online game that does background checks on an opt-in basis.
    Interesting because it dodges the issue of how much probing a company is doing about you without your knowledge: you give ’em permission to check your background, they check it and give you the seal of approval, then other people you meet can see whether you have the seal or not.
    But it doesn’t prevent you from talking to other people or hookin-up with them or whatever – just something they could ask you to do (if you haven’t already done it), if they were interested and cautious enough to want it.

  2. Having background checks run on an opt-in basis is another option. However, I’d be really suspicious of anyone that doesn’t opt in for the background check. I’d be wondering what they are hiding. As such, I’d probably stay away.

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