There have been web articles recently about dating sits offering so-called “national criminal database” searches on potential matches to weed out criminals, cheats  and predators.

Unfortunately, offering background checks on dating sites may end up doing more harm then good,  Although it may on occasion turn up some useful data, they are like fake medical  cures because people are lulled into believing they provide protection.  By letting people develop a false sense of security, it can put users at even greater risk because they may let their guard down.  As outlined in the recent article ESR wrote for ASIS magazine, these databases are full of holes.  In some states, such as New York or California they are nearly worthless.  For details see: 

Background checks on dating sites are one of those situations where it needs to be done right. Even if daters are told about the limitations of such searches, it is such a technical area that is it is hard to see how a consumer can really digest the information in a meaningful way.   The irony is that to substantially increase the value of a background check by taking greter measures is not very expensive, especially considering the dangers of dating someone who is dishonest or unsafe.

 ESR’s recommendation is for dating sites to offer real background checks. Either a user can pay for it, or a person that wants to register on a quality site can pay for it.   If a user of the dating site does not want to a utilize the service, that is their decision.  However, ESR questions if it is really good idea to offer cheap and oftentimes meaningless background checks that may well create a false sense of security.