Match.com, a popular dating site, announced last Sunday that it plans to begin screening users against the national sex offender registry. This change in policy comes in reaction to a pending lawsuit filed by a woman who alleges that she was assaulted by a man she met through the site.
Match.com president Mindy Ginsberg states that the site has considered screening options for years, but never implemented them due to “their historical unreliability.”
Ginsberg goes on to say, “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.”
Now, hold on just a second. At this point we must consider the following: What happened to buyer, or in this case dater beware? Further, and much more importantly, what happened to privacy and innocence until proven guilty?
Ginsberg openly admits that the process for running names against the database has “continued imperfection.” If someone is incorrectly placed into the sex offender category, such a mistake could lead to that person being wrongfully denied the opportunity to be with someone that he or she might have enjoyed a couple of dates or even the rest of their life with.
Additionally, Match.com cannot ever be completely sure who is registering. Because of the Internet’s inherent pseudo-anonymity, someone who registered under a nickname or some other alternate to their legally recognized moniker could very easily end up placed in the wrong category. Those who share the exact name with a known sex offender would also risk getting a false positive.
Given that the site will likely not ask for a Social Security number (given how private that information is), there is no definite way to tie an online account to a real person.
Further, Match.com touts its servicing of 24 different countries. Even if the site were able to somehow implement a system for checking sex offender status in the United States, they could not implement it on a global scale.
The new system would also provide users with an unwarranted sense of security. If people incorrectly presume that the new screening system removes all dangerous people for the dating database, they are likely to let their guard down, making them more vulnerable to dangerous situations.
Although the use of a sex offender check on Match.com (or even more globally on dating sites in general) might catch a few undesirables, it is equally likely that these same checks would exclude other people who have been placed in the wrong category.
Such mistakes are against everything that we stand for a as country. Until it is possible to check sex offender status with 100 percent accuracy, it should not be implemented. Let those who chose to date use common sense (and carry pepper spray).