Legislation under consideration in Illinois – House Bill 4083 (HB 4083) ‘INTERNET DATING SAFETY ACT’ – would require online dating sites to clearly and conspicuously disclose to all Illinois members if they conduct criminal background checks. Introduced by State Representative Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg), HB 4083 would also require Internet dating services to provide a safety awareness notification to all Illinois members of safer dating practices. The full text of HB 4083 is available here.
As defined in HB 4083, “Criminal background screening” means a name search for a person’s criminal convictions initiated by an online dating service provider and conducted by:
- “(1) Searching available and regularly updated government public record databases for criminal convictions so long as such databases, in the aggregate, provide substantial national coverage; or
- (2) Searching a database maintained by a private vendor that is regularly updated and is maintained in the United States with substantial national coverage of criminal history records and sexual offender registries.”
Under HB 4083, the Internet Dating Safety Act, if an Internet dating service does not conduct criminal background checks on its members, the service shall disclose to all Illinois members that they do not conduct criminal background checks in two or more of the following forms: e-mail message, “click- through” acknowledgement, member profile, or signup page. If an Internet dating service does conduct criminal background checks on all members, the service shall disclose to all Illinois members on the website pages used when an Illinois member signs up that they conduct a criminal background check on each member. Whether criminal background checks are conducted or not, the disclosure shall be provided bold, capital letters in at least 12-point type.
In addition, HR 4083 provides that if an Internet dating service conducts criminal background screenings, then the service shall state:
- Whether it has a policy allowing a member who has been identified as having a criminal conviction to have access to its service to communicate with Illinois members;
- That criminal background checks are not foolproof;
- That criminal background checks may give members a false sense of security;
- That criminal background checks are not a perfect safety solution;
- That criminals may circumvent even the most sophisticated criminal search technology;
- That not all criminal records are public in all states and not all databases are up to date;
- That only publicly available convictions are included in the screening; and
- That criminal background checks do not cover other types of convictions or arrests or any convictions from foreign countries.
If HB 4083 becomes law, The Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act would be amended by adding Section 2NNN as follows:
- Sec. 2NNN. Internet dating safety. It is an unlawful practice under this Act for an Internet dating service to fail to provide notice or falsely indicate that it has performed criminal background screenings in accordance with the Internet Dating Safety Act.
HB 4083 passed the House Consumer Protection Committee and is on its way to the full House for a vote. The Act would take effect upon becoming law. The full text of HB 4083 is available on the Illinois General Assembly website here.
Criminal background checks using only databases are not foolproof and can do more harm than good if they lead to a false sense of security, states Attorney Lester Rosen, CEO of background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR). “The problem is that there is no one agreed upon definition of a background check,” says Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ a comprehensive guide to employment background checks.
“If a dating site uses a so-called ‘National Criminal Check,’ a user of the site is still likely to develop false sense of security since such national checks are full of holes and cannot be solely relied upon as a background check,” Rosen explains. “It is primarily a tool that background screeners use in addition to other tools.”
Rosen says that bills such as HB 4083 are well intentioned but would be meaningless unless a dating website specifies in detail the nature and extent of the background check. “For example, was the criminal background check just a database search, or did it include county court level criminal checks?” Rosen asks. “If just a database is used, then there should be disclaimers that such databases can have both ‘false positives’ and ‘false negatives’ and should not be relied upon in making any determination as to a person’s background.”
For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and nationwide background screening company accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – at http://www.esrcheck.com/ or call ESR at 415.898.0044 or 888.999.4474.
About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’ – provides accurate and actionable information, empowering employers to make informed safe hiring decisions for the benefit for our clients, their employees, and the public. ESR literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by less than two percent of all screening firms. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ or call 415.898.0044 or 888.999.4474.
About ESR News:
The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at firstname.lastname@example.org.