Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday News Roundup: Background Checks and Online Dating

While this article had a few good tips on safety (like always meeting first dates in public), but for the most part it felt like sensationalized nightly news, painting the world as a much more dangerous place than it actually is.

Yes, some people on these sites might have spouses, or criminal records, or dangerous intentions, but so do people that you meet at coffeeshops, bars, night classes, work, even house parties.

We seem to have this idea that rapists and criminals are drawn to the internet. It is, after all, easy to hide behind an assumed identity when you can post whatever picture you want, but it’s equally as easy to lie in person. Sure, you can’t fake your weight or age when you’re having a face-to-face conversation, but when was the last time you asked for ID when a guy gave you his name?

People you meet at bars have no incentive to disclose a criminal record, and just because someone said it to your face doesn’t mean it’s true.

The fact is, rape wasn’t invented by the internet, and you’re at just as much risk when you go around meeting people in “real” life too.

Unfortunately, this article provides no numbers, and it doesn’t seem like there’s been extensive research comparing criminals who target dating sites instead of deserted alleys, but we’d bet that the percentages are about the same, if not lower in favor of online dating. If there’s anything CSI’s taught us, it’s that a lot of criminals get their kicks from the challenges.

But the main issue with this article is that it fails to discuss the biggest potential hurdle for these companies that offer background checks on online users, which is that they rely on accurate information. If you want a background check on SurfBoy212, you’d need his full name and date of birth. But if someone’s trying to conceal a criminal history, he’s probably not going to offer up honest answers to your inquiries.

Even if they’re not trying to hide anything, how are you going to go about obtaining a DOB? It reminds us of the date-rape kit David Cross always carries:

That’s not to say that you should have to feel embarrassed/apologetic about looking out for your safety, but the main issue is that you’d probably have to be upfront about it to get the correct information. This probably isn’t going to create the most favorable impression for your date, which again, would be OK if the results would be accurate.

But because a guy with something to hide is probably going to lie in the first place, you’re risking a lot for a very unlikely payoff. The fact is, you never know when someone’s telling you the truth, and if meeting guys in real life gives you a false sense of security, that’s probably more dangerous than skeptically online dating.

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