The top story in the most recent SkaDate Dating Software Online Dating Roundup dealt with three major industry players striking an agreement with California’s attorney general’s office to make online dating safer. Mainstream media reporting on the agreement posted headlines that abridged the idea behind the deal even more – Online Dating Sites Install Predator Screening.
This, coupled with recent talks about possible change in the online safety legislation, created confusion for many people, especially owners of smaller dating sites, for instance those using the SkaDate dating script. After all, reports said major websites in the deal hope the rest of the industry will follow suit soon. So let’s look closer at what happened here.
The talks of stepping-up online security, especially for sites that deal extensively with loads of personal profiles, have been going on for ages. No wonder really, since reports about identity theft, money scams, and sexual predators, appear in the news on the regular basis. However, apart from website owners dealing with said issues individually, nothing has been done industry-wide.
The situation seemed to change after Carole Markin, a former executive, producer, screenwriter, and published author, filed a civil suit against Match.com last year, after meeting a man on the site, who then sexually assaulted her on the second date. The man in question appeared to be a registered sex offender.
Markin was quite open about the whole thing and went on to appear on several networks, discussing the subject. This publicity propelled the online dating safety issue to the top of many people’s agendas, and even made Match.com promise to double check all of its members against the National Sex Offender Registry, which was enough for Markin to drop the lawsuit. Something was being finally done.
Thus, when the news about Match.com, eHarmony, and Spark Network signing an agreement with California first appeared online, many assumed this was the final chapter in the safety saga. No less than a specific set of rules and an action plan was expected.
After all, many opponents of screening regulations said hasty patch-up half-measures will only make things worse for the industry, since dating site members will have the false sense of security, while actual sex offenders and scammers will easily avoid unreliable screening obstacles.
Basically, the entire system gave site owners more headache than real protection for their clients. This should change now, with the California agreement, right?
Well, first of all, the agreement is actually not an enforceable set of regulations. At best, this is just a good will indication of dating giants to acknowledge the issue and maybe work towards improving the situation sometimes in the future.
Second, look at the guidelines posted within said agreement:
- Sites will provide safety tips for meeting someone in person.
- Sites may send customers emails warning them about the latest online financial scams.
- Sites will review profiles (either automatically or manually) to find fake profiles that may be linked to financial scammers.
- Sexual predators will be identified when requisite information is available, and removed from fee-based services.
- Sites will maintain rapid abuse-reporting systems that allows users access to “a website, email address and/or phone number to report any suspected criminal activity, including physical safety concerns and fraud.”
There’s nothing new to this set if you ask me. Here at SkaDate we always advised site owners to keep check on the member base and communicate with the community about safety matters. It is the very least admins can do to prove they really care about their members.
So after all this hype we’ve end up with a very basic counter-measure that might not have been known to general public, but was long employed by the majority of dedicated dating site owners anyway. This, of course, might be discouraging for some, and a relief for others, but it is at least something.
Truth is, while the agreement doesn’t seem to change much on the surface, it keeps the online safety issue in public spotlight. The majors and the attorney general said they will continue to meet regularly to create better safety tools in the future. So there’s still hope after all.