In a landmark deal that critics say is a long time coming, three of the nation’s online dating websites have agreed to change their business practices to give community members better safety tools.
The agreement – the result of a sexual battery court case involving a California woman attacked by a dating website member who later turned out to be a repeat registered sexual offender – was announced on Mar. 20 by the California Attorney General.
“I commend these companies for committing to these important consumer protections,” said California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. “Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted.”
Online dating providers eHarmony, Match.com, and Spark Networks (operator of such websites as JDate and ChristianMingle) said they will take steps to educate members, protect users from financial scammers and sexual predators, and improve cooperation with law enforcement.
The matchmaking sites will check subscribers against national sex offender registries and provide “rapid abuse” reporting systems for their members.
Any member found to be a registered sex offender will be barred from using the dating services.
“Through this system, members of the providers’ websites will have access to a website, email address and/or phone number to notify the provider of potential safety issues, fraud, or other suspected criminal activity,” the agreement stated.
The companies also agreed to perform manual and automatics checks for fake profiles and screen for financial or physical safety threats.
Ultimately, however, users of online dating services will be reminded that providers cannot guarantee safety and they are responsible for their online activities.
Last year, 40 million Americans spent more than $1 billion on memberships for online dating websites.
“In the interest of protecting and educating users, I strongly encourage all online dating companies to adopt the same principles as these industry leaders,” Attorney General Harris said.
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Rusty Ray, Executive Editor
Rusty Ray started an online freelance news project with live coverage of the 2008 Democratic & Republican Presidential primaries. On May 4, 2009, Rusty Ray founded Big 3 News. Over the past decade, Rusty Ray has participated in or provided news coverage of numerous political events, and has interviewed & featured an impressive roster of people, groups and causes. Rusty Ray