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Match.com Screens for Creeps: Good Luck!

Dating site Match.com has announced it will screen its customers against the national sex offender registry. In a Sunday email to the Associated Press, Match.com president Mandy Ginsberg wrote that the company had debated the screenings before, but said the "historical unreliability" of the registries had led them to decide against it.

Match.com made the decision to screen after a California woman filed a lawsuit last week against the company, claiming a man she met on the dating site sexually assaulted her after their second date. The suit says the alleged attack could have been prevented if Match.com had checked users' names against public sex offender registries, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Match.com chose to start screening members after spending a few days consulting with its advisors.

"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, despite its continued imperfection," Ginsberg told AP.

False Security?

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Match.com's member screenings may be a good first step to improving the safety of online dating, but they also run the risk of giving singles a false sense of security. And it's unclear whether the site will screen existing members as well.

From the site's current Terms of Use Agreement:

"You are solely responsible for your interactions with other members. You understand that Match.com does not in any way screen its members, nor does Match.com inquire into the backgrounds of its members or attempt to verify the statements of its members."

The truth is that dating sites will always be dicey. A user is agreeing to meet a complete stranger--with all the inherent risks. And if a Match.com user doesn't have a prior history of criminal misconduct, it's highly unlikely the site could determine whether he or she is a potential sex offender.

Match.com admits its background-screening plan is less than perfect.

"We want to stress that while these checks may help in certain instances, they remain highly flawed, and it is critical that this effort does not provide a false sense of security to our members," Ginsberg said.

So beware, Internet daters, and follow these tips to stay safe.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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