If you’ve been following our blog, you know that even the Department of Homeland Security is involved in online dating safety. Now lawmakers are getting involved. Illinois may be following in the footsteps of Texas and New Jersey with new legislation that would require online dating sites to publicize clearly on their site whether or not they do background checks and if members who are found to have a police record may be in the dating pool. They would also be required to prominently post safety warnins and tips, reminding users not to give out financial information or home addresses and to use caution despite the use of background checks. Companies that provide misleading information or not enough information about their practices could be fined up to $50,000.
A number of the major online dating sites already perform background checks, including eHarmony and Match.com. If the bill passes, eHarmony will simply add the text that is required to the pages seen by members from Illinois zip-codes. The information is already included on their Terms & Conditions page anyway.
Of course, this would not be foolproof. A man recently accused of sexually assaulting two women he met on a dating site has no criminal record and would still have been allowed on the site without any problems. In fact, some members of the Illinois legislature said that they would not support the law unless it required sites to use the most thorough background checks available and others are concerned that the new measures would allow people to drop their guard.
So the message seems to be fairly clear- no matter whether or not the law passes (if you live in Illinois), be cautious. This kind of legislation can help to make dating sites into safe environments, but it’s up to the users themselves to keep their eyes open and use common sense.