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Clues (blog)

Illinois law protects daters; but keep your guard up

A new law in Illinois now requires internet dating services to let users known whether or not they conduct criminal background checks on their members. The law, which went into effect on August 24th (2012) also requires the dating sites to provide safety awareness notification to its Illinois members.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the new law as a way to boost safety to online daters. "“With online dating becoming increasingly popular in the 21st century, it is important to make sure its participants are safe and aware of potential risks,” he said in a press release.

While the Illinois law is a step toward protecting daters -- please remember -- as an online dater you are still responsible for your own safety.

If you read through the details on Senate Bill 2535, aka the Internet Dating Safety Act, you'll see the terms spelled out quite clearly. Even with the fine print, there will be hiccups, so please -- do your own due diligence, keep your eyes peeled, always meet in public, and use your Date-a-Base.

Section 5 of the bill, where definitions are discussed, delves into what accounts for a "criminal background screening," and well, it starts with a name. Great! Because a criminal is sure to use his or her real name when signing up for an online dating site -- let's start there. So, even if a whole state means well and a private sector company strives to follow through on the law, there will be challenges.

And we haven't even gotten into the nitty gritty of what really makes up that "screening" part yet? Remember when California announced this initiative? I'm still waiting for clarification there; especially since some private dating sites have added on singles events where you can bring a friend and there's seemingly no screening process there!

Anyway, back to the Illinois "screening." In the Prairie State it means searching available and regularly updated government public record databases for criminal convictions and searching a database maintained by a private vendor that is regularly updated and is maintained in the U.S. with substantial criminal history and sexual offender registries.

In other words, what we've always done, visiting sites like:

And what's stopping someone from being squeaky clean when, criminal-free, at sign up and having a rap-sheet next week just before your date? Absolutely nothing. So, keep your guard up. It's great to see new laws working in our favor. Think of the law like a stop light at a busy intersection. For sure it'll help to have it -- but you should still look both ways before you cross that street.