Dating apps have become more and more popular for adults trying to find their perfect match. The online dating industry was worth more than $3 billion in 2020, and, according to Global News, 53% of people lie on their dating profiles about anything from their age to their physical appearance or job/income. So, what else could they be lying about? Is it important to know someone's criminal history and how does that pertain to the online dating world?
What are Dating Apps?
According to eHarmony, 36% of Canadians use online dating, with the most popular age group being 18 to 36 year old’s. Dating apps are being taken more seriously as people have more of an interest in finding a committed partner.
Top 5 Most Used Dating Apps in Canada:
Reasons to be Cautious on Dating Apps
Besides the fact that a large majority of people lie on their dating profiles, there can also be fake accounts. 1 in 10 accounts on dating sites are completely fake and have the potential to be a scam. Just like spam accounts on social media platforms, fake accounts exist on dating profiles and collect around $50 million a year. Online scams have become increasingly popular. The accounts are made to draw you in and swipe right to match so they can catfish or scam you. There are different ways to identify fake profiles.
Tips for identifying fake profiles:
- The wording in the profile can appear robotic and disjointed. Pay close attention to the grammar used.
- The photos might be filtered and appear to be someone else's. There have been many examples of people posing as celebrities, especially sports players.
- Look at the social media profiles of the individual. A real profile usually includes links to their social media accounts. A lot of dating apps have now included the option to link Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat profiles so you can get a more in-depth view of the person.
- Ask them about meeting up in person. If they seem to be avoiding it, it is more likely they are not a real person.
Another reason to be cautious is the dangers around meeting up with a stranger in person. People online are not always how they appear in person and there have been many examples over the years. It can vary from bad manners to people who are already married or in a relationship or even people who want to cause physical harm or assault. Sadly, there are some people who have bad intentions when dating online.
Background Checks in Dating Apps
According to the Government of Canada, 3.8 million Canadians have a criminal record or approximately 1 in 10 people, which is a higher number than most people are aware of. What does that mean for online dating? What are the pros and cons of requiring background checks? Dating app background checks could help with some of the safety concerns.
There are many negatives around criminal records, and it can be atopic of embarrassment for some. It can be a difficult subject to bring up, especially with a potential partner.
There is a fear of judgment and rejection when disclosing your past, but the seriousness of a criminal record can vary from a less serious offences such as drug possession, to more serious offences like assault, making it more complicated than just saying someone has a criminal record.
If background checks are required within dating apps, how will this affect the industry itself?
- Making sign-up more complicated.
Users enjoy the quick sign up and the ease of use when it comes to dating apps. It can be an easy way to meet people and a more casual way of dating. If a user is required to verify themselves and have a background check completed it will increase the number of steps it takes to create an account.
- Reducing the number of users.
If sign-up becomes more complicated, individuals might be less likely to go through the process of creating an account. It can remove users with fake or harmful intentions but what about the people who just do not want to put in the effort of having a background check completed? Will the number of users on dating apps decrease if a background check is required?
- Unfair Judgement of Individuals.
Are we quick to judge when it comes to criminal records? Should only certain convictions be required to be disclosed on dating apps or just dating websites? There is the potential for someone to be unfairly judged based on their past and this definitely needs to be taken into consideration when adding background checks as part of a dating app sign up process.
At the same time, there any many positives to having background checks in dating apps. In 2011, a woman was sexually assaulted by a man she met through a dating site. He had been convicted of sexual assault six times before. The situation for online dating and sexual assault is statistically becoming worse. Background checks could help to reduce the number of violent interactions.
Many other apps that result in a face-to-face meeting of a stranger, such as ride sharing and delivery apps, require a background check for their contractors. Dating apps are similar situations but in a romantic aspect. People are still meeting online and meeting up in person. Dating apps could be protecting their users the same as ride sharing and delivery organizations are.
Background Check Process
Different dating apps and websites have various requirements around background checks.
- Match.com requires a background check on all users.
- OkCupid and Plenty of Fish both have constant screening done of accounts that are reported and try to filter through and eliminate spam accounts.
- Other apps, such as Hinge, authenticate accounts through social media, while others give you the option to verify yourself through photo identification to let others know you are who you say you are.
Overall, dating apps have less security and systems in place to be able to protect their users, compared to other apps, and it is only beginning to pick up traction that these platforms are implementing processes to protect users.
Recently, Tinder announced that they have partnered with a background check platform for users in the US, in order to create a safer environment. This will focus solely on people who with a history of violence that could put others at risk without the bias that comes with other charges, such as drug or traffic violations.
In Canada, a criminal record check can be completed online, within minutes and some background checking companies have an API first platform, allowing for the background check process to fit seamlessly into the dating app sign up process. Criminal record checks also require the individual to complete online ID verification, an added bonus to the dating app sign up process.
In general, security in dating apps and dating online needs to improve. The industry is constantly working to change the experience for users and create a safer environment. The best background check for dating apps is going to be the one that improves safety but doesn’t impact the overall user experience much.
Stanford University concluded that the number of couples who have met online has increased from 2% to 39% between 1995 and 2017. It has also become one of the most popular ways to meet a partner with a high long-term success rate.
But at the same time, what about the people who have had a negative experience that could have been avoided through background checks? Having a process in place for an online criminal record check and identity verification of users can prevent some of the issues dating apps have experienced in the past.
For more information on how easily background checks can be incorporated into an online or app sign up process, check out our article about best practices for the gig economy here.
If you’re interested in learning more about how ScreeningCanada can help you, reach out to one of our product experts here.