Recently, a Los Angeles woman filed a lawsuit against match.com after she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on the website.  The woman went on a first date with the man and, thinking he seemed at least somewhat normal, agreed to a second date.  However, at the conclusion of the second date, the man sexually assaulted her.  The man was later found and is being criminally charged for the sexual assault, but the woman is demanding that match.com run a member through a database of sex offenders.

Is There A Right To Privacy On A Dating Website?

Generally, a dating website requires a person to fill out a profile and pay with a credit card.  However, most websites provide safety tips about meeting someone (like if you are traveling, do not stay at a person’s house) as well as warning people that they are responsible for screening the people they meet.  However, the woman who was attacked argues that as a powerful and successful online dating site, match.com has the means and opportunity to actually screen the individuals.

Many websites provide that any information you provide to the website will be kept private.  For example, the website plentyoffish.com’s policy states that they will collect personal information to create your online dating profile and to pass it on to third-parties in order to provide advertisements specific to you.  However, they make it explicitly clear that emails or communications may not be private and that you should be careful what types of personal information you reveal.

Should A Website Be Responsible For Harm To Clients?

Just because a website disclaims liability, if a website is setting up potentially harmful encounters, and could stop the harmful actions from occurring, they still could be liable for damages.  Almost every website will comply with information requests from law enforcement (this could include, name, address, credit card numbers or other information).  However, it does not appear that dating websites run client’s names through a sex offender database.

Match.com has already announced that they will begin to screen members to see if they have a history of sexual assault.  However, despite match.com’s best efforts, there remain many loopholes and problems with using the national database of sex offenders.  Perhaps most telling is match.com’s statement that “…it is critical that this effort does not provide a false sense of security to our members.”

What do you think?  Should dating websites be responsible for screening people on their website? Should each person be responsible for looking into the background of those they are meeting?

 

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