Less than a week after a Los Angeles woman filed a lawsuit against popular online dating service Match.com claiming that she was attacked by a man she met through its website, the company has decided to begin performing background checks on potential members using a national sex offender database, the Los Angeles Times reports. The new Match.com background check policy is expected to be implemented in 60 to 90 days.
The Times reports that the woman who filed the lawsuit – known only as Jane Doe and described as an Ivy League graduate working in film and television – was on a second date with her alleged attacker when he followed her home and allegedly assaulted her. She later discovered that the man had been previously convicted of sexual battery.
According to the Times, Match.com released a statement announcing the policy change saying that it had not run background checks on users against a national sex offender database in the past since such checks would be flawed and could give a false sense of security. The company remains concerned about the accuracy of the background checks.
Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a San Francisco-area background check company accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®), agrees that database searches can be unreliable and their results could give users a false sense of security.
Rosen says that because of the nature of databases, the appearance of a person’s name in a background check does not necessarily indicate that person is a criminal any more than the absence shows that person has a clean record. He claims that any positive match – called a “hit” – must be verified by reviewing the actual court records from a courthouse.
“Background checks based upon databases are subject to both false negatives and false positives,” explains Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ a guide to employment screening background checks. “They have substantial issues in terms of timeliness, completeness, and accuracy.”
In other words, Rosen says, database searches may contain both “false positives,” where there is a criminal match with the person in the background check, but upon further research it is not the same person, and “false negatives,” where there is not a criminal match with the person being checked, but that person is indeed a criminal.
While background checks using database searches are useful as secondary tool, Rosen explains that a professional background check should include county court level searches carried out by a professional background check company or a private investigator.
About Employment Screening Resources (ESR): Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area with a mission to help employers and employees maintain safe workplaces, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is Accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and is a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent helping U.S. businesses maintain legal workforces. For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@ESRcheck.com.