By Quentin Fottrell
After a woman in Los Angeles alleged she was assaulted by a man she met on Match.com, the dating website says it will now do what rival site eHarmony says it’s been doing for years: check existing and new members against the National Sex Offender Registry. Match.com’s new policy will begin in 60 to 90 days and was introduced after the woman, Carole Markin, filed a lawsuit against Match.com asking them to screen all members against the registry.
“For years we’ve been periodically evaluating the practicality of conducting these checks in connection with our service,” Mandy Ginsberg, President of Match.com, U.S. said in a statement. “However, their historical unreliability has always led us to conclude against it. (A spokeswoman says the site already has warnings and tips for members, but declined to answer questions about the case in Los Angeles or the reason for the change in policy.)
Markin, an entertainment industry executive known only as “Jane Doe” until Tuesday, filed a civil lawsuit against Match.com in which she alleges that she met a man on that site, who sexually assaulted her on their second date. “He sent me an email and it said that he was into golf and tennis and he had a house in the Palisades overlooking Malibu, and he liked art and culture and travel and food,” she told ABC 7 News.
Before Match.com’s announcement, the company’s lawyer, Robert Platt, said in the same broadcast that such checks would prove difficult and costly. “Then you’d have to ask for people’s social security numbers, which they don’t want to do, and then of course you’d have to pass on the cost to the consumer for doing this,” Platt said. (A spokeswoman for Match.com declined to comment on Platt’s remarks.)
Heath Hamaguchi, a spokesman for Markin tells Pay Dirt that the lawsuit was filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court to force Match.com to change its policies on background check for its members; Markin is not looking for financial compensation. “Match.com says they’ll change their policy in 60 to 90 days,” Hamaguchi says, “we’ll wait and see.”
Match.com’s Ginsberg gave this reason for the change in policy: “In recent conversations with providers over the last few days, we’ve been advised that a combination of improved technology and an improved database now enables a sufficient degree of accuracy to move forward with this initiative, despite its continued imperfection.”
eHarmony spokesman Paul Breton says he “applauds” Match.com for joining them in screening members against public sex offender registries. “eHarmony has been doing this for years with subscribers who reside in the United States,” he says. “It has allowed us to keep many known registered sex offenders off of our service. It’s just one way we are committed to helping our members look out for their safety.”
However, a good deal of online dating is inevitably left up to the members’ judgment and decisions to take precautions like meeting in a public place. As a matter of course, Breton says it doesn’t conduct full criminal background checks. “Registries can be incomplete or inaccurate, assaults and other crimes often go unreported, and perpetrators of crimes are not always convicted,” he says. “Relying solely on screening can provide a false sense of security.”
Do you do background checks on your online dates?