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ONLINE DATING SITES FACE REGULATIONS
MANDATING USER BACKGROUND CHECKS

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By: Walters Law Group

As Americans we have long enjoyed the freedom of privacy not only in our homes but in our personal lives as well.  When it comes to matters of the heart, the government is the last thing that comes to mind.  However, a few states are pushing past this principle and adopting bills that require Internet dating and social sites, referred to in the proposed bills as “online relationship service providers,” to conduct background checks. Although the language varies from state to state, the pending bills require the providers to conduct searches for felony and sexual offense convictions from a national criminal database, updating these checks at least once every 90 days.  If the site does not conduct a background check, it must post warning language on the home page stating that fact.  Internet dating is perceived by some lawmakers as more dangerous than other forms of dating, citing the rise in Internet predators and the fact that women are being duped by married men claiming to be single. [1]   “Online dating service provider” or “provider” as defined in Michigan Senate Bill 286, “means a person or organization engaged, directly or indirectly, in the business of offering, promoting, or providing access to dating, relationship, compatibility, matrimonial, or social referral services primarily through the Internet.” [2]
            This proposed change began several months ago in Michigan, where the driving lobbyist for the Bill is not someone who had a bad Internet dating experience, but rather the founder of True.com, a new Web site that offers criminal background checks to users, making this a special interest piece of legislation. [3]  These bills especially interest True.com, because it would set the site apart as one of the few who provide this type of service.  In the midst of all of this, the Internet Dating Executive Alliance/Online Association for Social Industry Standards (www.ideaoasis.org), announced its opposition to these bills.  The organization, comprised of companies such as Date.com, FriendFinder, Inc., Cupid.com, and RelationshipExchange, also warned of security concerns surrounding the data providers that would potentially provide the proposed mandated checks. [4]  
Currently, bills are also being considered in California, Florida, Ohio and Texas. 
Lawrence G. Walters, is an Internet attorney representing online dating sites in all aspects of their operations.  Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.  Please contact your personal attorney with regard to specific legal matters.


[1] Detroit News Editorial, Michigan Shouldn’t Mess with Online Love, DetNews.com located at http://www.detnews.com/2004/editorial/0411/06/-327189.htm (last accessed 3/24/05). 
[2] Michigan Senate Bill No. 286, located at http://mb.internetdatingconference.com/viewtopic.php?t=164 (last accessed 3/24/05). 
[3] Detroit News Editorial, Michigan Shouldn’t Mess with Online Love, DetNews.com located at http://www.detnews.com/2004/editorial/0411/06/-327189.htm (last accessed 3/24/05). 
[4] Business Wire, In Wake of Major Security Breaches at Data Providers, Dating Site/Social Networking Trade Group Announces Opposition to State Legislation Aimed at Regulating Online Dating, BusinessWire.com located at http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20050321005474&newsLang=en (last accessed 3/24/05). 

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