Starting this month, Match.com will begin checking member profiles against national sex offender registries. This move is in response to a lawsuit filed by Carole Markin. This move is intended to improve safety and security of online dating, but it could easily do more harm than good.
Carole Markin’s lawsuit against Match.com
A class-action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on April 13 targeted Match.com’s screening procedures. Specifically, Carole Markin (named as Jane Doe in court documents), claims that Match.com should have been checking members of the website against sex offender registries. Markin claims that on a second date, convicted sex offender Alan Wurtzel raped her. In the lawsuit, Markin claims that Match.com failed “to undertake a basic screening process that disqualifies from membership anyone who has a documented history of sexual assault. Match and sexual predators benefit, while female members … are endangered.”
Match.com plans screening procedures
In the past, Match.com has refused to screen potential members of its dating website because screening technology is “historically unreliable.” The president of Match.com has issued a statement stating that “improved technology and an improved database now enables a sufficient degree of accuracy to move forward.” The company plans on checking its member names against the National Sex Offender Registry, a database of convicted sexual offenders in the country. Eharmony, Match.com’s biggest competitor, already screens members against the National Sex Offender Registry. Markin has stated that if the company follows through, she will drop her lawsuit, which does not request monetary damages.
The possible problems with NSOR screening
There are several problems with dating websites screening their members. Match.com and eHarmony do not verify members’ identities, which means that registry checks can be easily circumnavigated. Common names that may appear on registries may have to be checked using addresses, which many dating websites do not require. Even if the registry and the websites match the right name and address, a listing on a registry is not always proof-of-guilt. Audits of registries by MSNBC found that registry information is often wrong, outdated or incomplete. Lastly, these screening procedures could cause a false sense of security and encourage online daters to take risks that they would not otherwise take.
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