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While online dating as we know it has been around for nearly 15 years now, the concern of being robbed of your money, or kidneys, or just getting murdered on a first date with an internet stranger still has not faded.
On the assumption that individuals with a criminal record are more likely to be dangerous dates, a new app is promising to help online daters stay safe by weeding out members with a criminal record, or those on a sex offender registry. The app, named Gatsby as a nod to F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, requires members to pass a criminal background check before being allowed to use the app to find a date. Furthermore, the app rescreens monthly, and will issue lifetime bans to members convicted of a crime.
The app claims to check public databases, including sex offender registries, but everything about their background check process seems a bit hush-hush. The app only requires limited information, such as linking a Facebook account or simply an email address. Though technology can do quite a bit, without enough data to run an adequate background check, the site cannot guarantee results. It's likely that if the site attempted to require fingerprints, social security numbers, or even more invasive information, that many users would never bother to sign up due to the burdensome process.
Unfortunately, a quick read of the terms of service will weaken anyone's confidence that the site can deliver as they disclaim liability for the very thing they claim to be able to do, which just does not inspire confidence. Another potential issue involves expunged and juvenile criminal records, both of which will not show up in a criminal background check.
It's a dangerous world out there. If you're going to do the online dating thing, be smart about it. Here are a few helpful safety tips:
Editor's note, May 10th, 2017: Gatsby has verified that they're currently adding further safeguards and applying for a patent.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.