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FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.
Once upon a time, people didn't require Internet access to find a date. The old-fashioned dating scene involved socializing with friends, attending community events, and spending Friday nights at parties and bars. That still happens, of course, but with the Internet, there are now unlimited hook-up options available right at your fingertips.
Dating sites like eHarmony and Match.com boast that many users have found loving, long-lasting relationships through ther dating services. Those couples likely would not have resulted without those web sites. Bravo -- that is fantastic.
Other dating sites focus on helping people find immediate hook-ups, rather than long-term relationships. Tinder is such a hook-up site. For married people who don't want to be left out of the hook-up fun, there's Ashley Madison. As recently highlighted by the Ashley Madison hacks, however, there are many serious risks associated with hooking up online.
People do not always portray themselves accurately online. The photograph provided and the biographical information given may not truly represent who a person really is in real life. At a minimum, time can be wasted getting together with someone who provided false information to obtain a first meet up.
Worse, it's not easy to ferret out the real creeps out there. Horribly, someone in-person encounters that followed online introductions have resulted in violence, rape, and murder. It is critically important to have a first in-person meeting in a public place. No one should arrange a first date to be held someplace private, like in an apartment.
Some dating sites provide introductions based on common contacts -- meaning that the two people who are introduced and who may meet know someone in common who can vouch for each of the would-be daters. This appears to add some measure of verification and safety.
Of course, there never are perfect guarantees. The dating game is full of hazards, whether or not the Internet is involved. Still, a measure of caution is always advisable, especially when meeting strangers. Rather than say "be afraid, be very afraid," let's simply say "be careful, be very careful" in the new Internet dating world.
Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.
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