Internet dating and background screening – a good idea?

Internet dating and background screening – a good idea?

Internet dating has come a long way – in more ways than one. Tinder announced last week it was going to provide a way for users to obtain data on potential dates. On the surface, this is a good idea. Better safe than sorry, right?

The data to be provided by Tinder – for a price, of course – is reported to be “verified.” At GroupOne Background Screening, our first question would be, “What is your definition of ‘verified’ data?” For us single souls, we appreciate knowing about potential romantic partners prior to the circuitous process of meeting at the local coffeehouse or pub. Trust can only take you so far with such a rendezvous.

Match Group, owner of the dating platforms Tinder, OKCupid and Match.com, has stated it would assist users run background checks on future dates based on a name and phone number.

The data is expected to include arrests, convictions, restraining orders and harassment crimes. Through the years at GroupOne, we’ve heard stories from our single staff members about the oftentimes nightmarish dates resulting from online services. People have been stood up (probably for the best), misrepresented their marital status or posted photos showing them to be 20 years younger (or 20 pounds lighter).

Dating, no matter the forum, is tough. Dating sites provide an alternative to singles bars, which have reputations of their own. We’ll be the first to admit there’s more than enough creeps out there. Today, many people check on potential dates with Google searches and inspections of social media.

We applaud Match Group for attempting to protect its customers. But here at GroupOne, we’ve been conducting these searches for over 30 years and a name and phone number will oftentimes provide inadequate data. And don’t get us started on Google searches and social media checkups. A person cannot be properly vetted unless you have a social security number and date of birth. Without these, you will have issues with duplicate names oftentimes revealing false information.

Such a background check could cause a false sense of security, especially when inadequate data is concerned. Before the popularity of dating sites, single people met through friends or close associations. Usually, you had a sense of knowledge about the person prior to sitting down to dinner.

Today, all of that has changed. We may believe a digital background check to be a true representation of someone. But these “fast” records are anything but perfect. They could include criminal convictions that were later expunged or charges that were dropped. GroupOne has learned through the years of the difficulties for people with inaccurate records, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to remove such errors.

And yes, we have encountered people who use fake names and phone numbers to circumvent such data checks. Safety is always important, and we do not wish to bemoan the attempts of Tinder. Just beware the feeling of safety when it is not entirely ensured.

Today, the “Ban the Box” movement is becoming a national trend. It provides an opportunity for potential employees to prevent employers from asking about criminal history on applications in order to give applicants a fair chance. There’s great social value in letting people with stains on their records reintegrate into social life — to include dating.

Sure, GroupOne can do a professional background check on your date and provide you with optimum security. But should we know everything about the person we meet prior to that first cocktail or coffee? Is it a good idea to vet potential partners in the same way we buy a car or hire an employee? Should we know someone’s business history and credit score in advance? Why even bother with polite conversation?

It’s important to develop tools to combat sexual violence, but we must be cognizant of the accuracy of such tools. A background check with only a name and phone number will rarely provide you with the final verdict. Be safe out there and may two hearts beat as one.

The information and opinions expressed are for educational purposes only and are based on current practice, industry related knowledge and business expertise. The information provided shall not construed as legal advice, express or implied.

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