Yes. The dating apps that so many rely on to find love have assumed a new role–screening out those with criminal records. Adding another hurdle to the list of collateral consequences for those who have walked through the criminal justice system. The battleground for privacy continues to change.
Despite a sweeping majority of states passing groundbreaking legislation to provide privacy and relief to those with criminal records, the market steps in.
Here are some things you should know:
- People Search Engines are hard at work providing the source data for those records
- “Instant” results are being promised, which are red flags for privacy violations
- LegalTech privacy tools prevent unwanted records from showing up
- Some services limit the searches to only the most serious of offenses–a possible middle-ground that most may agree with
- Sex offender registry lists takes first place among allowable disclosures
Read on to find out more about the evolving marketplace for background checks within online dating platforms.
Disclaimer: this article is written for informational purposes only. While there are many reasons to conduct criminal history searches on individuals for permissible purposes, the privacy rights involves can be highly complex depending on the records involves and the given jurisdiction. To better understand your exact rights, it is highly advised you seek the consultation of an experienced attorney to evaluate your individual scenario.
Online Dating Sites Enter the Background Screening Industry
With public records data becoming more accessible by the day, it shouldn’t be a shock that this new feature is offered to make customers feel safer.
Online dating apps dominate the matchmaking industry with good reason–so many people have found real results.
Unfortunately, many have also been scammed or put in compromising situations. So much so, that dating platforms has pivoted to help their users feel more secure to take the plunge while using their services.
But entering into the territory of background check services is a very tricky one.
For one, serious federal and state laws govern the industry and these regulations are not to be taken lightly. Therefore, putting on a “criminal records provider” hat is nothing to be taken lightly.
Second, the consumer is hoping for accuracy–and the industry does not like to guarantee such a thing. Even the best background check providers have testified in court under oath that there is always an error matrix. That may not be good for online dating consumers (especially for those who are flagged).
People Search Engine Services and “Hidden” Background Checks
One thing to be aware of, is that the term “background check” is not what the general public thinks it is.
When someone attempts to use a public records provider for the purpose of extending an offer of employment, housing, or other legal purpose–they must abide by a list of privacy laws so as not to violate consumer protections.
But federal and state laws do not enumerate “dating” as a permissible purpose for obtaining a criminal history report on someone.
So how can dating sites offer these “background check” services? Technically, it’s not a true background check because that is a term of art used differently in the courts and regulatory agencies that enforce compliance.
What’s just as dangerous for those with criminal records, though, is that their past arrests, criminal charges, and prior convictions will be accessed and reported to a potential love match through a people search engine.
Instant Results = Bad News
Ask any professional background screening agency about “instant” results and they will reply with a troubled look on their face. Because anyone who has been in the criminal record industry knows that there are safeguards in place to protect consumers from overly broad background check reports.
The only way to provide a background check that is legal and compliant with privacy is to ensure maximum possible accuracy and maintain strict procedures to ensure that the report is complete and up to date.
Instant results, therefore, cannot provide that kind of assurance.
Preventing Records from Showing Up
For anyone who has been on this website, it is not a surprise that RecordFixer provides an automated solution to those with past arrests and qualifying criminal history (such as sealed arrests, dismissed cases, and expunged records).
People search engines, like traditional background check database providers, cannot sell or provide public records that are not accurate or legally outdated. This is especially the case with arrest records that have been sealed.
Therefore, to prevent online dating providers from relying on outdated criminal record sources, it’s best to remove those records before they are reported to someone who wants to know more about you. In time, you can share what you wish as you earn trust.
But what about the Serious crimes? Shouldn’t someone looking for love know about that in advance?
Some of the online dating background check providers stay true to their purpose and reveal only the most serious of criminal offenses to would-be daters (stalking, sexual assault, fraud, domestic violence, child abuse, and anything that would qualify as a sex offense).
In some ways, it can be argued that providing such information actually is somewhat easily available online for anyone who has experience in finding it–only the service streamlines the results. For example, anyone is able to lookup someone on a state’s sex offender registration files with little online experience.
For many, individuals who fall into these categories of crime will need to seek official relief from the courts in order to permanently remove any trace of their past. In those cases, collateral relief will provide the appropriate level of privacy and the courts will make the determination that someone can truly turn a page without fear of being branded for life.
Where to go from here?
For those without criminal records and looking for love, it looks like the market will provide as many features as possible to be safe out there. Many online dating sites strictly require anyone with a felony history or who is required to register as a sex offender to be deemed unqualified for their platform. While the enforcement of these clauses is difficult to asses, many dating sites consumers are good at “Googling”.
As for the 1 in 3 Americans with some form of criminal record, there is still a chance.
- Arrests that did not get filed typically qualify for a petition to seal.
- For those whose cases were dismissed due to a diversion program or alternative sentencing, these court records can be very valuable in demanding your privacy.
- Finally, expungement orders also qualify as a ticket to removal.
If you find yourself in any of these three categories, you can jump on to RecordFixer and flex your privacy now.