Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Agreement to Strengthen Consumer Protections for Users of Online Dating Websites
SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that three of the nation's leading online dating providers have issued a joint statement of business principles that online dating providers should follow to help protect members from identity theft, financial scams and sexual predators.
The agreement between the Attorney General and online dating providers eHarmony, Match.com and Spark Networks (operator of such websites as JDate and ChristianMingle), states that the companies will protect their members through the use of online safety tools, including checking subscribers against national sex offender registries and by providing a rapid abuse reporting system for members.
The websites will also continue to proactively educate members about safe online dating practices, and will supply members with online safety tips, including fraud prevention guidance and tips for safely meeting people offline. These tips and financial scam warnings will be issued on an ongoing basis to registered members.
"I commend these companies for committing to these important consumer protections," said Attorney General Harris. "Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted. It is a priority for this office to ensure consumers are protected online, and companies who are creating in the Internet space have a continued opportunity to innovate and thrive."
Providers will continue their efforts to screen members for safety threats, whether financial or physical, using a number of protective tools, including looking for fake profiles and checking sex offender registries to prevent registered sex offenders from using their fee-based services. Any member who is identified as a registered sex offender will not be allowed to use these services.
This joint statement also ensures that the online dating service providers have rapid abuse reporting systems, which give members access to a website, email address and/or phone number to report any suspected criminal activity, including physical safety concerns and fraud. This agreement reflects best practices that these industry leaders are following.
"In the interest of protecting and educating users, I strongly encourage all online dating companies to adopt the same principles as these industry leaders," Attorney General Harris said.
Last year, Attorney General Harris established an eCrime Unit to prosecute identity theft, data intrusions and crimes involving the use of technology. Attorney General Harris will assign a liaison from the eCrime Unit to deal with reports of suspected criminal activity provided by the three online dating providers and other providers who adopt these principles.
In 2011, 40 million Americans used an online dating service and spent more than $1 billion on online dating website memberships. Of couples married in the last three years, one in six met through an online dating service and one in five people have dated someone they met through an online dating site.
"eHarmony has the greatest concern for the safety and security of our members. These types of practices have been part of our commitment to member safety and education for many years." said eHarmony CEO Jeremy Verba. "We are proud to join Attorney General Harris, Match.com and Spark Networks in setting an example for the rest of the online dating industry."
"We commend Attorney General Harris for working with us to communicate best practices for a safe and enjoyable online dating environment," said Match.com President Mandy Ginsberg. "We have always been committed to setting the standard for positive consumer experiences in online dating, and we were happy to work with the Attorney General, eHarmony and Spark Networks to encourage best practices throughout the industry."
"The safety of our members and integrity of our sites is of fundamental importance to us, and we have always taken a multi-faceted approach to creating and maintaining safe online communities like JDate and ChristianMingle," said Greg Liberman, President and CEO of Spark Networks. "We are honored Attorney General Harris has recognized our efforts to date and look forward to our continuing collaboration with the Attorney General, eHarmony, and Match.com to protect the safety and privacy of online daters and encourage others in the industry to follow our examples."
A copy of the agreement is attached to the online version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov.